2023 Elsevier/VSS Young Investigator Award – Brian A. Anderson

Monday, May 22, 2023, 12:30 – 2:00 pm, Talk Room 2

The Vision Sciences Society is honored to present Brian A. Anderson with the 2023 Elsevier/VSS Young Investigator Award.

The Elsevier/VSS Young Investigator Award, sponsored by Vision Research, is given to an early-career vision scientist who has made outstanding contributions to the field. The nature of this work can be fundamental, clinical, or applied. The award selection committee gives highest weight to the significance, originality and potential long-range impact of the work. The selection committee may also take into account the nominee’s previous participation in VSS conferences or activities, and substantial obstacles that the nominee may have overcome in their careers.   The awardee is asked to give a brief presentation of her/his work and is required to write an article to be published in Vision Research.

Brian A. Anderson

Associate Professor, Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, Texas A&M University

The 2023 Elsevier/VSS Young Investigator Award goes to Professor Brian A. Anderson for his seminal contributions to understanding of visual attention and cognition. Dr. Anderson is an Associate Professor with tenure in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at Texas A&M University, where he also serves as the Director of Human Imaging. After graduating summa cum laude at the University of Maine at Augusta with a degree in Social Science, Dr. Anderson obtained an M.S. in Psychology working with Charles Folk at Villanova University and then a Ph.D. in Psychological and Brain Sciences with Steven Yantis at Johns Hopkins, where he also completed a short postdoctoral fellowship.

Dr. Anderson’s research has provided fundamental insights into the mechanisms of visual attention. He pioneered a method for studying how the relationship between reward and visual stimuli in one task setting can impact the allocation of attention in other contexts. This resulted in the striking discovery that visual features previously associated with rewards continue to draw attention even when those features are neither relevant nor salient. This value-driven form of attentional capture also provides a useful model for understanding failures of value-based cognitive control, such as in addiction. Dr. Anderson’s work has further examined the relationship of value-based attention to dopamine signaling and to the processing of both aversive and rewarding stimuli. Dr. Anderson has had an immense impact of the field, having published over 80 original research articles and 10 review articles, and earning recognitions from the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Psychonomic Society. He has mentored many graduate, masters and undergraduate students, postdocs, and postbacs, who themselves have first authored many papers and received many awards. Dr. Anderson’s accomplishments illustrate how insights from basic vision science can impact multiple disciplines and translate to the clinic and beyond.

Value-Driven Attention and the Story Behind the Science

Less than 15 years ago, the control of attention was widely held to reflect the joint influence of two underlying mechanisms of prioritization: one goal-directed and the other stimulus-driven. Now, there is considerable consensus that a third mechanism governing the control of attentional exists that is reducible to neither goal-directed nor stimulus-driven influences, which has come to be referred to as selection history. Pivotal to this fundamental shift in thinking was the finding that an arbitrary task-irrelevant stimulus less physically salient than the target could come to involuntary capture attention as a function of its reward history. That is, reward learning could directly modify the attentional priority of an otherwise ignored stimulus. This talk will recount how that finding came to be, and how my thinking on the topic has evolved over the years.

Dr. Anderson will speak during the Awards session.