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Journal Article

A computational account of threat-related attentional bias


Dayan,  P
Department of Computational Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Wise, T., Michely, J., Dayan, P., & Dolan, R. (2019). A computational account of threat-related attentional bias. PLoS Computational Biology, 15(10), 1-21. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1007341.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-D50C-F
Visual selective attention acts as a filter on perceptual information, facilitating learning and inference about important events in an agent’s environment. A role for visual attention in reward-based decisions has previously been demonstrated, but it remains unclear how visual attention is recruited during aversive learning, particularly when learning about multiple stimuli concurrently. This question is of particular importance in psychopathology, where enhanced attention to threat is a putative feature of pathological anxiety. Using an aversive reversal learning task that required subjects to learn, and exploit, predictions about multiple stimuli, we show that the allocation of visual attention is influenced significantly by aversive value but not by uncertainty. Moreover, this relationship is bidirectional in that attention biases value updates for attended stimuli, resulting in heightened value estimates. Our findings have implications for understanding biased attention in psychopathology and support a role for learning in the expression of threat-related attentional biases in anxiety.