Visual attention can be guided by statistical regularities in the environment, that people implicitly learn from past experiences (statistical learning, SL). Moreover, a perceptually salient element can automatically capture attention, gaining processing priority through a bottom-up attentional control mechanism. The aim of our study was to investigate the dynamics of SL and if it shapes attentional target selection additively with salience processing, or whether these mechanisms interact, e.g. one gates the other. In a visual search task, we therefore manipulated target frequency (high vs. low) across locations while, in some trials, the target was salient in terms of colour. Additionally, halfway through the experiment, the high-frequency location changed to the opposite hemifield. EEG activity was simultaneously recorded, with a specific interest in two markers related to target selection and post-selection processing, respectively: N2pc and SPCN. Our results revealed that both SL and saliency significantly enhanced behavioural performance, but also interacted with each other, with an attenuated saliency effect at the high-frequency target location, and a smaller SL effect for salient targets. Concerning processing dynamics, the benefit of salience processing was more evident during the early stage of target selection and processing, as indexed by a larger N2pc and early-SPCN, whereas SL modulated the underlying neural activity particularly later on, as revealed by larger late-SPCN. Furthermore, we showed that SL was rapidly acquired and adjusted when the spatial imbalance changed. Overall, our findings suggest that SL is flexible to changes and, combined with salience processing, jointly contributes to establishing attentional priority.

The dynamics of statistical learning in visual search and its interaction with salience processing: an EEG study

Dolci, Carola
;
Santandrea, Elisa;Chelazzi, Leonardo;
2024-01-01

Abstract

Visual attention can be guided by statistical regularities in the environment, that people implicitly learn from past experiences (statistical learning, SL). Moreover, a perceptually salient element can automatically capture attention, gaining processing priority through a bottom-up attentional control mechanism. The aim of our study was to investigate the dynamics of SL and if it shapes attentional target selection additively with salience processing, or whether these mechanisms interact, e.g. one gates the other. In a visual search task, we therefore manipulated target frequency (high vs. low) across locations while, in some trials, the target was salient in terms of colour. Additionally, halfway through the experiment, the high-frequency location changed to the opposite hemifield. EEG activity was simultaneously recorded, with a specific interest in two markers related to target selection and post-selection processing, respectively: N2pc and SPCN. Our results revealed that both SL and saliency significantly enhanced behavioural performance, but also interacted with each other, with an attenuated saliency effect at the high-frequency target location, and a smaller SL effect for salient targets. Concerning processing dynamics, the benefit of salience processing was more evident during the early stage of target selection and processing, as indexed by a larger N2pc and early-SPCN, whereas SL modulated the underlying neural activity particularly later on, as revealed by larger late-SPCN. Furthermore, we showed that SL was rapidly acquired and adjusted when the spatial imbalance changed. Overall, our findings suggest that SL is flexible to changes and, combined with salience processing, jointly contributes to establishing attentional priority.
2024
N2pc
SPCN
Visual attention
salience processing
spatial priority map
statistical learning
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11562/1117130
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