Selection History

Selection History

What is selection history?

Our past experiences of paying attention to certain things or events but not others has a strong influence on what we will attend when we encounter similar contexts again. While we will continue to pay attention to what was relevant to us or particularly peculiar in the past, we will continue to ignore what was deemed unimportant. Crucially, the influence of these past episodes of attention come to bias our attention implicitly and in an automatic fashion.
In a similar vein, our attention is typically drawn towards objects that are associated with reward because it will increase the delivery of something that is highly desired. Interestingly, the experience of reward delivery as a consequence of attending a reward-associated object also leads to a build-up of selection history that persists to guide our attention even when it no longer leads to reward and oftentimes even when it goes against our intention.

In the context of contemporary models of attention, selection history is a collective term for a specific type of attentional control that is seperate of goal-driven and stimulus-driven attentional control. It represent selective influences of selection and reward history on ongoing attentional selection.

“Past selection episodes are recapitulated in subsequent trials when the relevant context is encountered again. As such, the selection history concept dovetails with existing frameworks that emphasize the role of associative learning and memory in the deployment of attention, except that we emphasize the numerous cases in which selection history effects countermand goal-driven selection.” (from Awh et al., 2012)

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How do I study it?

I study the influence of selection history using various methods: psychophysics, eye-tracking, electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). See below for a list of publications that show how we employ these methods.

Michel Failing, PhD
Postdoctoral researcher

Postdoctoral researcher studying attention, learning, memory and perceptual decision-making.


Our recent paper on distractor suppression just got accepted for publication in Attention, Perception and Psychophysics. In this paper, …

We just uploaded a new manuscript on PsyArXiv in which we address the possibility that previously observed spatial suppression is …


(2019). Statistical regularities induce spatial as well as feature-specific suppression. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. (* shared first authorship).

Preprint Code Dataset Project Project Source Document DOI

(2019). Spatial suppression due to statistical regularities is driven by distractor suppression not target activation. Attention, Perception and Psychophysics (* shared first authorship).

Preprint PDF Dataset Project Project Source Document DOI

(2018). Selection history: How reward modulates selectivity of visual attention. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 25(2), 514-538.

Project Project Project Source Document DOI

(2017). People look at the object they fear: oculomotor capture by stimuli that signal threat. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 79(8), 2275-2298. (* shared first authorship).

PDF Project Project Source Document DOI

(2016). Value-modulated oculomotor capture by task-irrelevant stimuli is a consequence of early competition on the saccade map. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 78(7), 2226-2240.

PDF Project Project Project Source Document DOI

(2015). Oculomotor capture by stimuli that signal the availability of reward. Journal of Neurophysiology, 114(4), 2316-2327.

PDF Project Project Project Source Document DOI