Selection history: How reward modulates selectivity of visual attention

Michel Failing*, Jan Theeuwes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Visual attention enables us to selectively prioritize or suppress information in the environment. Prominent models concerned with the control of visual attention differentiate between goal-directed, top-down and stimulus-driven, bottom-up control, with the former determined by current selection goals and the latter determined by physical salience. In the current review, we discuss recent studies that demonstrate that attentional selection does not need to be the result of top-down or bottom-up processing but, instead, is often driven by lingering biases due to the “history” of former attention deployments. This review mainly focuses on reward-based history effects; yet other types of history effects such as (intertrial) priming, statistical learning and affective conditioning are also discussed. We argue that evidence from behavioral, eye-movement and neuroimaging studies supports the idea that selection history modulates the topographical landscape of spatial “priority” maps, such that attention is biased toward locations having the highest activation on this map.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)514-538
Number of pages25
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number2
Early online date4 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


Acknowledgements We would like to thank Leonardo Chelazzi and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable feedback on earlier versions of this work. This work was supported by an ERC advanced grant under Grant No. ERC-2012-AdG – 323413 awarded to Jan Theeuwes.

FundersFunder number
ERC advanced
Seventh Framework Programme323413


    • Attention
    • Attentional capture
    • Priming
    • Visual selective attention


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