Event Title

Does Oculomotor Capture by a Fear Conditioned Stimulus Depend on Contingency Awareness?

Mentor 1

Deborah Hannula

Mentor 2

Fred Helmstetter

Location

Union Wisconsin Room

Start Date

27-4-2018 1:00 PM

Description

Past research indicates that perceptually salient materials capture attention. Recently, we have reported that capture is not limited to perceptually salient items, but extends to materials that are distinctive by virtue of their learned aversive value. In our latest experiment, participants searched for a target stimulus defined by color during a training phase. On a given trial, the target was either red or blue. Participants were told to make a single saccade to the target location and that they would receive a shock if they were too slow. In reality, shock administration was predetermined. Specifically, shock was paired more often with one color than the other (e.g., red = 80% reinforcement, blue = 20% reinforcement). Here, the red circle becomes a conditional stimulus (CS+) and the blue circle a predictor of relative safety (CS-). Subsequently, in a test phase, participants searched for a target defined by shape (e.g., diamond among circles). Occasionally, one of the distractors was either the CS+ or the CS-, but shock was not administered. Results indicated that participants made erroneous saccades more often to the CS+ than the CS-, an effect that was evident even when participants could not report the training phase contingencies. After providing a summary of this work, we will identify some shortcomings of our approach and articulate a plan for a new experiment. One important design change entails trialby-trial assessment of shock expectancy during the training phase. Previously, contingency awareness was assessed at the end of the experiment using a postexperimental questionnaire. This approach may be insufficiently sensitive to low levels of awareness present during training. As such, we will be able to make more definitive claims about capture with and without awareness, which is important, as explicit awareness is a lynchpin component of some theoretical perspectives in the fear conditioning literature.

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Apr 27th, 1:00 PM

Does Oculomotor Capture by a Fear Conditioned Stimulus Depend on Contingency Awareness?

Union Wisconsin Room

Past research indicates that perceptually salient materials capture attention. Recently, we have reported that capture is not limited to perceptually salient items, but extends to materials that are distinctive by virtue of their learned aversive value. In our latest experiment, participants searched for a target stimulus defined by color during a training phase. On a given trial, the target was either red or blue. Participants were told to make a single saccade to the target location and that they would receive a shock if they were too slow. In reality, shock administration was predetermined. Specifically, shock was paired more often with one color than the other (e.g., red = 80% reinforcement, blue = 20% reinforcement). Here, the red circle becomes a conditional stimulus (CS+) and the blue circle a predictor of relative safety (CS-). Subsequently, in a test phase, participants searched for a target defined by shape (e.g., diamond among circles). Occasionally, one of the distractors was either the CS+ or the CS-, but shock was not administered. Results indicated that participants made erroneous saccades more often to the CS+ than the CS-, an effect that was evident even when participants could not report the training phase contingencies. After providing a summary of this work, we will identify some shortcomings of our approach and articulate a plan for a new experiment. One important design change entails trialby-trial assessment of shock expectancy during the training phase. Previously, contingency awareness was assessed at the end of the experiment using a postexperimental questionnaire. This approach may be insufficiently sensitive to low levels of awareness present during training. As such, we will be able to make more definitive claims about capture with and without awareness, which is important, as explicit awareness is a lynchpin component of some theoretical perspectives in the fear conditioning literature.