Watching for gains and losses: the effects of motivational challenge and threat on attention allocation during a visual search task
This experiment tests predictions based on research and evidence around the biopsychosocial model (BPSM) that people in a challenge state have faster, more gain orientated search patterns than those in a threat state. Participants (n = 44) completed a motivated performance task involving the location of a target appearing in one of two search arrays: one associated with gaining points and the other associated with avoiding the loss of points. Midway through the task, participants received a false feedback prime about their performance invoking either challenge or threat. We found that participants receiving a challenge prime (high performance feedback) spent longer searching the gain array and made fewer fixations on the loss array. Those receiving a threat prime (low performance feedback) made fewer fixations on the gain array. These findings are in line with the BPSM and provide evidence that allocation of attention (measured using eye movement data) is related to challenge and threat.