Threat captures attention but does not affect learning of contextual regularities

Motonori Yamaguchi, Sarah L. Harwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
146 Downloads (Pure)


Some of the stimulus features that guide visual attention are abstract properties of objects such as potential threat to one's survival, whereas others are complex configurations such as visual contexts that are learned through past experiences. The present study investigated the two functions that guide visual attention, threat detection and learning of contextual regularities, in visual search. Search arrays contained images of threat and non-threat objects, and their locations were fixed on some trials but random on other trials. Although they were irrelevant to the visual search task, threat objects facilitated attention capture and impaired attention disengagement. Search time improved for fixed configurations more than for random configurations, reflecting learning of visual contexts. Nevertheless, threat detection had little influence on learning of the contextual regularities. The results suggest that factors guiding visual attention are different from factors that influence learning to guide visual attention
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)564-571
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number3
Early online date30 Nov 2015
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Nov 2015


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