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PLoS One. 2010 Nov 23;5(11):e14087. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0014087.

Reward guides vision when it's your thing: trait reward-seeking in reward-mediated visual priming.

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Department of Cognitive Psychology, VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Reward-related mesolimbic dopamine is thought to play an important role in guiding animal behaviour, biasing approach towards potentially beneficial environmental stimuli and away from objects unlikely to garner positive outcome. This is considered to result in part from an impact on perceptual and attentional processes: dopamine initiates a series of cognitive events that result in the priming of reward-associated perceptual features. We have provided behavioural and electrophysiological evidence that this mechanism guides human vision in search, an effect we refer to as reward priming. We have also demonstrated that there is substantial individual variability in this effect. Here we show that behavioural differences in reward priming are predicted remarkably well by a personality index that captures the degree to which a person's behaviour is driven by reward outcome. Participants with reward-seeking personalities are found to be those who allocate visual resources to objects characterized by reward-associated visual features. These results add to a rapidly developing literature demonstrating the crucial role reward plays in attentional control. They additionally illustrate the striking impact personality traits can have on low-level cognitive processes like perception and selective attention.

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