Poster A24, Saturday, March 25, 5:00 – 7:00 pm, Pacific Concourse
Seeing what we want to see: Motivation shapes perceptual judgments and category-selective activity in the ventral visual stream
Yuan Chang Leong1, Brent Hughes2, Jamil Zaki1; 1Stanford University, 2University of California, Riverside
People often trust their visual system to construct an objective representation of the physical world. Yet, previous work suggests that goals, desires and wants can influence what people see. In this study, we explored the neural mechanisms underlying motivational influences on visual perception. Human participants were presented with images comprising a mixture of a face and a scene in different proportions while we measured their BOLD response using fMRI. Participants were tasked to categorize whether each image predominantly displayed a face or a scene, and were rewarded for each correct categorization. We manipulated the category participants were motivated to see by instructing them that they would win or lose extra money if the upcoming image was of a particular category. Even though the reward maximizing strategy was to perform the classification as accurately as possible, the additional financial incentive shifted participants’ sensitivity to the motivation-consistent category - for the same face to scene ratio, participants were more likely to categorize an image as belonging to a category if they were motivated to see that category. We then applied multi-voxel pattern analysis methods to participants’ BOLD response to quantify the level of face-selective and scene-selective activity in the ventral visual stream, and found evidence for enhanced category-selective activity for the motivation-consistent category during presentation of the ambiguous composite images. Our results suggest that motivation influence perceptual judgments via gain control mechanisms that increase the neural sensitivity to motivation-consistent perceptual features.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Emotion-cognition interactions