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Psychological and Brain Sciences Brown Bag Seminar: Brad Stilwell

Wednesday, March 4, 2020 - 11:30am
Psychological and Brain Sciences Building

Psychological and Brain Sciences Departmental Brown Bag Seminar

Brad Stilwell, Psychological & Brain Sciences, The University of Iowa

"Learned Distractor Avoidance in the Face of Strong Target Guidance"

Abstract: Visual attention is guided toward behaviorally-relevant objects by target ‘templates’ stored in visual memory. Visual attention also is guided away from nontarget distractors by learned distractor rejection. In a series of visual search experiments, we asked if learned distractor rejection operated while attention was simultaneously guided by a target template. Next, we teased apart learned distractor “rejection” by testing two potential mechanisms. We tested a proactive, task-wide control setting that globally deprioritizes the consistent distractor feature versus a reactive, within-trial control setting, whereby, attention must first select the distractor before it can be rejected. Using eye-tracking, we demonstrate learned oculomotor avoidance: Observers try to avoid the consistent distractor, but the system is imperfect. When observers attend a consistent distractor colored item they disengage more efficiently than a variably colored distractor. Together, we argue that learning to ignore consistent distracting information is achieved through proactive inhibition during efficient target guidance and theories of visual attention should accommodate this reliable source of guidance.