How top-down and bottom-up attention modulate risky choice

Yonatan Vanunu, Jared M. Hotaling, Mike E. Le Pelley, Ben R. Newell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examine how bottom-up (or stimulus-driven) and top-down (or goal-driven) processes govern the distribution of attention in risky choice. In three experiments, participants chose between a certain payoff and the chance of receiving a payoff drawn randomly from an array of eight numbers. We tested the hypothesis that initial attention is driven by perceptual properties of the stimulus (e.g., font size of the numbers), but subsequent choice is goal-driven (e.g., win the best outcome). Two experiments in which task framing (goal driven) and font size (stimulus driven) were manipulated demonstrated that payoffs with the highest values and the largest font sizes had the greatest impact on choice. The third experiment added a number in large font to the array, which could not be an outcome of the gamble (i.e., a distractor). Eye movement and choice data indicated that although the distractor attracted attention, it had no influence on option selection. Together with computational modeling analyses, the results suggest that perceptual salience can induce bottom-up effects of overt selection but that the perceived value of information is the crucial arbiter of intentional control over risky choice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2025646118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number39
StatePublished - Sep 28 2021


  • Bottom-up
  • Extreme outcomes
  • Risky choice
  • Selective attention
  • Top-down

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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