Context, Reward, and the Biasing of Visual Attention
Barry Giesbrecht
University of California Santa Barbara

The human attention system helps us cope with a complex environment by supporting the selective processing of information relevant to our current goals. The efficiency of the human attention system is heavily influenced by environmental regularities that can effectively reduce uncertainty and complexity. I will present a series of behavioural, electrophysiological, and fMRI studies designed to investigate the interaction between systems that support the learning of environmental regularities and those that mediate visual attention. I will focus on two types of learned regularities: Spatial configurations that predict object locations and nonspatial reward contingencies. While the learning of these regularities is mediated by very different neural structures, I will show that they have similar influences on the visual attention system. When these findings are considered together with previous behavioural, patient, and neuroimaging studies, along with studies demonstrating both anatomical and functional links between parietal cortex, the medial temporal lobe, and the basal ganglia, the empirical evidence converges on the notion that the attention system is guided by multiple representations and this guidance supports coherent behaviour in a complex environment.