Center for Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Department of Psychology, Peking University, Beijing, China Key Laboratory of Machine Perception (Ministry of Education), Peking University, Beijing, China PKU-IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Peking University, Beijing, China.
It is well known that directing attention to a location in space enhances the processing efficiency of stimuli presented at that location. Research has also shown that around this area of enhanced processing, there is an inhibitory region within which processing of information is suppressed. In this study, we investigated whether a reward-associated stimulus can break through the inhibitory surround. A distractor that was previously associated with high or low reward was presented near the target with a variable distance between them. For low-reward distractors, only the distractor very close to the target caused interference to target processing; for high-reward distractors, both near and relatively far distractors caused interference, demonstrating that task-irrelevant reward-associated stimuli can capture attention even when presented within the inhibitory surround.