The Outcome Predictability Bias Is Evident in Overt Attention

Oren Dennis Griffiths, Mike E. Le Pelley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies of human associative learning have demonstrated that people's experience with a cueing stimulus will change how that cue is treated during subsequent learning. Typically, studies have shown that people pay more attention to cues that were informative in the past, and learn new information about these cues more rapidly (these cues are said to have a higher associability). It has recently been shown that to-be-predicted events (outcomes) can also differ in their associability as a consequence of prior experience. However, to date there is no direct evidence that this change in associability is accompanied by a change in attention, which would provide stronger evidence of a parallel with the effects observed previously with cueing stimuli. In two experiments, we examined this question by tracking eye-gaze to provide a measure of participants' overt attention, as they completed a cued visual search task in which outcome predictability was manipulated. The prior predictability of an outcome stimulus biased eye-gaze and learning rate, in a manner reminiscent of the gaze biases observed in tasks that manipulate cue associability. The present results support the view that outcomes, like cues, can vary in the degree to which they attract both attention and learning resources, as a function of their associative history.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-300
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • Associability
  • Associative learning
  • Attention
  • Prediction error
  • Uncertainty


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