Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


44th Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2018

Event Details

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #242
CE Offered: PSY/BACB

Capture and Control: Promoting and Preventing Distraction by Reward-Related Stimuli

Sunday, May 27, 2018
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Marriott Marquis, Grand Ballroom 7-9
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Instruction Level: Intermediate
CE Instructor: Elizabeth Kyonka, Ph.D.
Chair: Elizabeth Kyonka (University of New England)
MIKE LE PELLEY (University of New South Wales Sydney)
Mike Le Pelley is an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at UNSW Sydney (Australia). He completed a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge, studying the role of associative learning processes in human behavior. After his Ph.D., Mike held the Sir Alan Wilson Fellowship at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge, followed by a move to a lectureship at Cardiff University, In 2011 he was awarded an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship and moved to the University of New South Wales (as it was then known) in Sydney, Australia. Since 2015 he has been working as a faculty member at UNSW Sydney (as it is now known), and since 2017 he has also been a Mercator Fellow at the Philipps University of Marburg, Germany. Most of Mike's research has a component of associative learning in it; for example recent projects have investigated the influence of reward learning on attention (using behavioral studies, eye-tracking, and EEG), the contribution of learning and prediction processes to schizophrenia, and how basic learning mechanisms can explain examples of so-called �metacognitive� behavior in nonhuman animals.

Selection is central in everything we do, from the highest-level decisions (which candidate should I vote for?) to the lowest (where should I move my eyes next?). So what determines when a stimulus will be selected for action, versus being ignored? Research on attentional selection has shown that stimuli with distinctive physical features (color, brightness, loudness, etc.) can exert control over our behavior even when this conflicts with the goal of our current task; for example, when driving we might be distracted by a loud noise from the back seat. Recent work has gone further by demonstrating that distraction is not purely a function of the physical salience of stimuli: it is also influenced by prior learning about association with reward. I will review evidence for this value-modulated attentional capture effect from behavioral studies, eye-tracking, and EEG, showing that rewards exert a rapid and pervasive influence on attentional selection. This effect is somewhat analogous to demonstrations of sign-tracking in nonhuman animals, and (much as for sign-tracking) preliminary evidence indicates it might be related to development of addictive behaviors. Finally, I will describe evidence suggesting that counterproductive effects of reward on attention can be reduced, if not overcome, via instrumental conditioning.

Target Audience:

Behavior analysts interested in the psychology of learning and attention, and in psychological mechanisms of addiction.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) describe how various experimental techniques (behavioral studies, eye-tracking, and electroencephalography) have been used to study the influence of reward learning on attentional behavior; (2) describe how the effect of rewards on behavior might reflect the interaction of Pavlovian and instrumental conditioning processes; and (3) describe evidence showing that the relationship between rewards and attention might relate to the occurrence of addictive behaviors.



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