Impact of relative and absolute values on selective attention

Document Type


Publication Date



Valuable stimuli receive attentional priority. However, it is unknown whether the mechanism of the attentional priority is based on relative (e.g., higher) or absolute (e.g., 45 points) values. Therefore, we manipulated the relative and absolute values independently in a modified value-driven attentional capture paradigm. In the training phase, where associative learning occurs between color and reward value, two test target colors were each presented with another different target color (reference target colors) in separate context blocks. Therefore, each test target color had different reference points. In the test phase, the two test target colors were used as singleton distractor colors. In the training phase of Experiment 1, the absolute reward value of the test target colors was the same, but one had a higher value than its reference target color and the other had a lower value. In the test phase, the high relative value color distractor captured attention more, suggesting that the relative value of stimuli influenced selective attention. In Experiment 2 the relative value of the test target colors was the same, but the absolute value was higher for one. The high and low absolute value color distractors captured attention equally in the test phase, indicating little impact of the absolute value on selective attention. These findings suggest that the relative value, rather than absolute value, plays a critical role in the allocation of attention. Accordingly, the present study suggests that prospect theory (Kahneman & Tversky, Econometrica, 47 (2), 363-391, 1979) can be extended to earlier cognitive stages such as selective attention.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)

Psychonomic bulletin & review

First Page


Last Page


This document is currently not available here.