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Brian Anderson

Associate Professor
Areas of Speciality
  • Cognition & Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Affective Science
  • Psychology 208
Professional Links
Office Hours
Office Hours for Spring 2022 By appointment only
Accepting Students
Yes for 2022-2023

Research Interests

My research investigates the mechanisms by which reward learning changes how we direct our attention in the future. To this end, I have pioneered an approach in which simple, arbitrary stimuli are paired with reward in a training procedure and then appear as task-irrelevant distractors during performance of a subsequent task. I examine how these previously reward-associated stimuli are processed in both healthy participants and in individuals who struggle with addiction and other psychopathologies, using both human behavior and functional neuroimaging. I am also interested in how punishment learning influences subsequent attention, and how we can employ goal-directed attentional control in order to minimize distraction.

The findings from my research not only inform our understanding of basic mechanisms of attentional control, but also have clearly identifiable clinical implications. For patients who struggle with addiction, ignoring stimuli associated with their drug of abuse is very difficult to do and this difficulty contributes to relapse. Attention can be persistently drawn to drug-related stimuli, even when the patient has the goal of maintaining abstinence. My research demonstrates that normal, healthy individuals can develop strikingly similar attentional biases as the result of simple associative learning between stimuli and non-drug reward, suggesting that addiction-related attentional biases may be reflective of a broader and more basic cognitive process.

Recent Publications

Anderson, B. A. (in press). An adaptive view of attentional control. American Psychologist.

Anderson, B. A. (in press). Time to stop calling it attentional “capture” and embrace a mechanistic understanding of attentional priority. Visual Cognition.

Kim, H., Nanavaty, N., Ahmed, H., Mathur, V. A., & Anderson, B. A. (in press). Motivational salience guides attention to valuable and threatening stimuli: Evidence from behavior and fMRI. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

Kim, A. J., Lee, D. S., & Anderson, B. A. (in press). Previously reward-associated sounds interfere with goal-directed auditory processing. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Gregoire, L., Kim, H., & Anderson, B. A. (in press). Punishment-modulated attentional capture is context-specific. Motivation Science.

Mikhael, S., Watson, P., Anderson, B. A., & Le Pelley, M. E. (in press). You do it to yourself: Attentional capture by threat-signaling stimuli persists even when entirely counterproductive. Emotion.

Gregoire, L., Britton, M. K., & Anderson, B. A. (in press). Motivated suppression of value- and threat-modulated attentional capture. Emotion.

Kim, H., & Anderson, B. A. (in press). How does the attention system learn from aversive outcomes? Emotion.

Kim, N., Anderson, B. A., & Ahn, C. R. (in press). Reducing risk habituation to struck-by hazards in a road construction environment using virtual reality behavioral intervention. Journal of Construction Engineering and Management.

Kim, A. J., & Anderson, B. A. (in press). How does threat modulate the motivational effects of reward on attention? Experimental Psychology.

Anderson, B. A. (2021). Relating value-driven attention to psychopathology. Current Opinion in Psychology, 39, 48-54.

Kim, H., & Anderson, B. A. (2021). Combined influence of valence and statistical learning on the control of attention: Evidence for independent sources of bias. Cognition, 208, 104554.

Kim, A. J., Lee, D. S., & Anderson, B. A. (2021). The influence of threat on the efficiency of goal-directed attentional control. Psychological Research, 85, 980-986.

Britton, M. K., & Anderson, B. A. (2021). Attentional avoidance of threatening stimuli. Psychological Research, 85, 82-90.

Gregoire, L., Kim, A. J., & Anderson, B. A. (2021). Semantic generalization of punishment-related attentional priority. Visual Cognition, 29, 310-317.

Anderson, B. A. (2021). Using aversive conditioning with near-real-time feedback to shape eye movements during naturalistic viewing. Behavior Research Methods, 53, 993-1002.

Kim, A. J., & Anderson, B. A. (2020). The effect of concurrent reward on aversive information processing in the brain. NeuroImage, 217, 116890.

Kim, A. J., & Anderson, B. A. (2020). Arousal-biased competition explains reduced distraction by reward cues under threat. eNeuro, 7, ENEURO.0099-20.2020.

Kim, A. J., & Anderson, B. A. (2020). Threat reduces value-driven but not salience-driven attentional capture. Emotion, 20, 874-889.

Kim, A. J., & Anderson, B. A. (2020). Neural correlates of attentional capture by stimuli previously associated with social reward. Cognitive Neuroscience, 11, 5-15.

Liao, M.-R., & Anderson, B. A. (2020). Reward learning biases the direction of saccades. Cognition, 196, 104145.

Liao, M.-R., Britton, M. K., & Anderson, B. A. (2020). Selection history is relative. Vision Research, 175, 23-31.

Liao, M.-R., & Anderson, B. A. (2020). Inertia in value-driven attention. Learning and Memory, 27, 488-492.

Liao, M.-R., Gregoire, L., & Anderson, B. A. (2020). The influence of threat and aversive motivation on conflict processing in the Stroop task. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, 82, 2802-2813.

Britton, M. K., & Anderson, B. A. (2020). Specificity and persistence of statistical learning in distractor suppression. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 46, 324-334.

Goddard, T., McDonald, A. D., Alambeigi, H., Kim, A. J., & Anderson, B. A. (2020). Unsafe bicyclist overtaking behavior in a simulated driving task: The role of implicit and explicit attitudes. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 144, 105595.

Anderson, B. A., & Britton, M. K. (2020). On the automaticity of attentional orienting to threatening stimuli. Emotion, 20, 1109-1112.

Anderson, B. A., & Kim, A. J. (2020). Selection history-driven signal suppression. Visual Cognition, 28, 112-118.

Anderson, B. A., Kim, H., Britton, M. K., & Kim, A. J. (2020). Measuring attention to reward as an individual trait: The value-driven attention questionnaire (VDAQ). Psychological Research, 84, 2122-2137.

Recent Grants