Interaction of bottom-up and top-down attentional influences on the processing of contingency information


How do individuals determine what information to attend to when making causal inferences on the basis of contingency information? Although much research has focused on the role of top-down attentional influences on this process (e.g., effects of prior beliefs and motivation), little work has addressed the role of bottom-up attentional influences, which may be driven by low-level perceptual and motor processes. In prior work, the current authors demonstrated a distinct bottom-up rightward bias in overt attention during contingency acquisition that was associated with subsequent causal judgments (Goedert & Eiter, 2008). Here we recorded eye movements of participants while they acquired information about two candidate causes whose spatial locations varied over the course of learning. We found that the bottom-up rightward bias in gaze direction persisted in spite of the varied spatial locations of the causes. Additionally, the bias interacted with top-down, knowledge-based contingency acquisition processes to influence participants’ gaze patterns.

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