The current top-down attentional set is shaped by previous selection episodes

Poster Presentation 43.419: Monday, May 22, 2023, 8:30 am – 12:30 pm, Pavilion
Session: Visual Working Memory: Serial dependence

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Changrun Huang1,2 (), Dirk van Moorselaar1,2, Mieke Donk1,2, Jan Theeuwes1,2,3; 1Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 2Institute Brain and Behavior (iBBA), Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 3William James Center for Research, ISPA-Instituto Universitario, Lisbon, Portugal

It is becoming increasingly clear that attentional selection is not solely shaped by bottom-up (i.e., salience-driven) and top-down (i.e., goal-driven) factors, but also by an observer’s past experiences with the current stimuli in a given environment. While a surge of recent studies have characterized how past experiences shape future attentional behavior by examining the interaction between selection history and bottom-up influences, to date it remains largely unclear whether, if at all, previous experiences can shape a top-down attentional set. To examine this, in an EEG experiment we had participants perform the additional singleton paradigm during the maintenance period of a continuous recall spatial memory task, which served as a proxy for top-down attention. Critically, the visual search task contained a regularity such that a singleton distractor appeared with a higher probability at a given location in the search display. Behaviorally, there was clear evidence that this high probability distractor location was suppressed, as evidenced by a more efficient search when the distractor appeared at this location. This learned spatial suppression also modulated top-down attention, with memory performance gradually decreasing as a function of the distance between the memorized item and the high probability distractor location. To further characterize this interaction between top-down attention and selection history, we adopted a forward encoding approach to reconstruct the tuning profile of the memorized position. Forward modeling resulted in reliable tuning profiles during memory maintenance that gradually decayed and that were revived again by the onset of a neutral placeholder display preceding search, confirming the interaction between top-down attention and new sensory input. Intriguingly, the tuning profile at the high probability distractor location was modulated both during maintenance and processing of the neutral placeholder. Together these results further our understanding of the complex interactions underlying attentional selection.

Acknowledgements: Jan Theeuwes was supported by a European Research Council (ERC) advanced grant 833029 – [LEARNATTEND] and Changrun Huang was supported by a China Scholarship Council (CSC) scholarship [201908440284]