Reward-prospect interacts with trial-by-trial preparation for potential distraction.
When attending for impending visual stimuli, cognitive systems prepare to identify relevant information while ignoring irrelevant, potentially distracting input. Recent work (Marini et al., 2013) showed that a supramodal distracter-filtering mechanism is invoked in blocked designs involving expectation of possible distracter stimuli, although this entails a cost (distraction-filtering cost) on speeded performance when distracters are expected but not presented. Here we used an arrow-flanker task to study whether an analogous cost, potentially reflecting the recruitment of a specific distraction-filtering mechanism, occurs dynamically when potential distraction is cued trial-to-trial (cued distracter-expectation cost). In order to promote the maximal utilization of cue information by participants, in some experimental conditions the cue also signaled the possibility of earning a monetary reward for fast and accurate performance. This design also allowed us to investigate the interplay between anticipation for distracters and anticipation of reward, which is known to engender attentional preparation. Only in reward contexts did participants show a cued distracter-expectation cost, which was larger with higher reward prospect and when anticipation for both distracters and reward were manipulated trial-to-trial. Thus, these results indicate that reward prospect interacts with the distracter expectation during trial-by-trial preparatory processes for potential distraction. These findings highlight how reward guides cue-driven attentional preparation.
Marini, F; van den Berg, B; Woldorff, MG
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