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Attention & Memory

- We have a limited amount of resources that we can expend and allocate
- Importance of speed of response
- Psychological adaptations evolved in response to frequent selection pressures
- Having enhanced responses, attention and memory to specific things may be this
- But our ability to solve problems does not seem to generalize to all domains. It is specific to the problem it solves
- Example: Wason Task, 3 areas of enhanced attention

1

Wason Selection Task
(what is it, other experiments)

1) Indicate only the card(s) you definitely need to turn over to see if the following rule is true.
"If a card has a vowel on one side, then it has an even number on the other side" - If P then Q
A B 2 3
- Correct Answer: A and 3 (P and not-q)
- A confirms the theory, 3 tries to falsify

- 25% of people get this right
- If presented in social contexts relevant to evo. psych (e.x. cheater detection), correct responses improve dramatically
- If a person is drinking beer, they must be 18 years old

3

3 Social Scenarios which influence memory and attention

1) Mating
- Mate value relevant traits direct attention (Dewall and Manner (2 experiments))
- Mate preferences influence memory encoding & retrieval (Manner 2007)

2) Foraging
- Object location memory influenced by survival-relevance (about the context, not the item itself) (Silverman et al. 2007)
- Sex differences in spatial abilities track sexual division of foraging labour (Krasnow et al. 2011)
- High caloric payoff items remembered more accurately (new et al)

3) Fear
- Emotion produced by perception of present/impending danger and causes some kind of action on our part
- Obvious adaptive value (evolutionary lag when it comes to fears - afraid of spiders more than cars/guns)
- Normal in appropriate circumstances
- Ohman et al, Face Experiment

4

DeWall & Manner, 2008
(Experiment 1)

- Saw 2 sets of photos (men/women) of 12 targets
- Targets manipulated by exposure time (unlimited vs. 4-seconds)
and "status" (wore a suit or rags)
- Task: Estimate % of targets that we high status 2 or distractor: eyes open, smiling, etc.

Results
When participants had limited time to assess, they over-estimate proportion of high status that are present but NOT for females (almost underestimation)
-Why not status cues in females? May not represent information that is relevant to their mating goals/reproduction
- Why status? High SES men capture our attention
High SES men represent 2 categories: attraction for females, and intrasexual competition in males
- Effect exists for males AND females viewers

Summary
- Limitations on attentional capacity caused participants to base their frequency estimates on targets that captured their attention more
- Fitness-relevant stimuli may capture our attention even when performing another task.

5

DeWall & Manner, 2008
(Experiment 2)
- 2 different kinds of motivation influencing our attention and summary

- Took Sociosexual Orientation Inventory (Measures sexual restrictiveness (e.x. how important is commitment to sex), Relationship Alternatives Scale (motivation to mate/current relationship satisfaction)
- Set up with an eye tracker
- Presented with photo arrays (8 targets).
- Manipulated attractiveness and social status of 2 targets (2 were high att/high SS, 2 high att/low ss, etc..)

Results
- Participants spent more than half the time attending to high status male targets (replicates exp. 1), less than half to hight status females.
- Spent more time looking at high status males than high status females
- Spent more than half the time looking at high att male/females
- SOI: positive association between SOI scores and attention to attractive opposite sex. Suggests they are looking for mates. But what we attend to when we look differs
- RAS: Interest in alternatives was positively associated with attention to high status males for female viewers only. Suggests females are looking for EPCs

Summary
- Mate choice relevant attributes capture our attention when they are specific to our reproductive goals

6

Maner et al. (2007)
(What kind of psychological effect occurs)

- Participants were primed to be motivated towards mate-searching/mate-guarding by writing about 1 of 2 scenarios (write 5 sentences that are about mate-searching/guarding (or control), pick the most valent sentence and write more about it)
- Scenario 2 was writing about intrasexual vigilance (guarding mate) by writing about anxiety or jealousy (both -ve valence)
- Took SOI and measured intrasexual vigilance measures.
- Then completed a visual dot probe procedure: looked at a mid-line "x", then a picture of a face was presented quickly, then a circle or a square would be presented where the face was or elsewhere
- Faces were manipulated for attraction
- Measured reaction time and accuracy
- Effect: Attentional Adhesion: "capturing attention through slower reaction time and accuracy

Results
- For both men and women, attractive women capture our attention. Because high attractive women are attractive to men but represent competition for women.
- SOI + Attractiveness: When primed to sexual arousal/mate-searching (mating goals), individuals with an unrestricted score are unable to disengage from an attractive opposite-sex targets as a restricted individual (~150 ms). Attractiveness effect occurs in those who are ready to mate.
- Vigiliance: Those score high on vigilance and are primed to jealousy were unable to disengage as quickly as controls or low vigilance.

Summary
- Harder to disengage attention from attractive females but not males
- Attentional adhesion predicted by mating goals and intrasexual competition.

7

Allan et al. 2012

- Learning procedure: looked at 30 faces masc/fem, shown random object beside their face (types of fish), then given an distractor -sudoku for 5 minutes.
- Were then only shown the object paired to the previous face and asked which of the two (fish) had they previously seen.

Results:
- Women who like masc. male faces remember the associated objects more accurately.
- No effect for women looking at women.
- Specific to potential mates for women because of choosiness - women want to have a longer period of assessment. Might have to do with recalling social info about potential mates
- Might not be the same for men because of different mate goals/preferences. It isn't as costly for men to make a bad choice or have less memory for good quality mates.

8

Foraging Adaptation Theory
(Computer Experiment)

Theory: Food items that are relevant to survival are going to have privilege in our cognition (ex memory)
- Participants asked to rate and remember 8 food items at 8 locations
- Rate how easily the item could be collected
- Read they were doing this for survival or scavenger hunt (control)
- Then given a surprise recall task. Shown a banana, and asked to click on the screen where it was located.

Results:
- Doesn't matter if the items were near/far on the screen, but the scenario manipulation made participants more accurate at recalling where the pixelated food item on the screen was
- We are not privelaged to remember apples/grapes overall. It's about the relevance of those items to US and our situation.

Exp. 2
- Does it matter if they are fruits or animals?
- Hunting scenario: ease of capturing prey for survival vs. hunting contests.

Results:
- Same effect as fruit (scenario influenced accuracy)

9

Foraging Adaptation Theory
(Summary)

- Contextual framing in terms of survival results in more object location memory for both stationary and moving food items
- Hunting mobile prey and gathering immobile resources have different computational requirements
- Sex differences should occur in foraging-relevant cognitive functions that mirror sexual division of labor

10

Food Adaptation Theory
(Sex advantages and differences)

Hunting
- Male advantage
- Prey pursued over erratic courses, unfamiliar environments, should advantage men in the use of cardinal directions and 3-d mapping
- Silverman et al. 2007

Gathering
- Female Advantage
- Must register and store multiple locations within well-known constrained environments
- Silverman et al. 2007, Krasnow et al. 2011, New et al

Differences
- Females: prefer colours associated with ripeness
- Make finer taste discriminations
- Have better taste memory
- Better at discriminating/remembering plants
- Prefer fruits over meats

11

Silverman et al. 2007
(OLM and 3DMRT)

- Online, 40 countries, 250k participants (huge sample)
- Object Location Memory Task: Going to see a bunch of items, remember where they are, then some move and you have to identify which move (would expect females to have an advantage)
- 3D Mental Rotation Task: see block shapes, asked to select which of the following options are that shape.

Results
- OLM: Females better than males, 3D: vice versa
- Sex differences in spatial abilities tracks sexual division of foraging labour

12

Krasnow et al. 2011

- Viewed object array
- Images of fruit, tools, animals, buildings, electronics
- Asked 2 questions: 1) Non-spatial memory: Is this item old or new? 2) What location was this old item seen in the array.

Results
- Only reliable sex difference found in spatial memory was in the fruit category. Women remember fruit location better than men.

13

New et al

- Farmers market mapped out in a grid.
- Participants thought they were going to look at farmer market stalls and taste food/rate them
- For 'farmer's market research'
- After visiting all stalls, participants taken to center of market and asked to point in the direction of each stall (measured degrees of accuracy in pointing)

Results
- Women are more accurate at point to location of food items than men
- Foods with higher caloric density were pointed to more accurately by both sexes
- Even after they controlled for everything possible.
- (see chart)

14

Threat Perception
(Defenses against attack, which was due to warfare)

- Survival-relevant stimuli increase RTs and accuracy for both human/non-human threats (fruit, face fear experiments)

- Freezing (if unsure where threat is, better to stand still)
- Fleeing
- Fighting (show you are not a prey item, hope competitor disengages)
- Submission/appeasement
- Fright
- Fainting: exclusively human, women faint more and happens in children more than adults to be not seen as a combatant. Might have evolved due to warfare.

15

Evolved Physiological Reactions
(what inputs into it?)

- Psychological adaptation inputs into evolved physiological reactions
- Epinephrine: aids in blood clotting, and releases stored glucose in the liver (burst of energy you need to respond)
- Heart rate: Divert blood flow from digestion to muscles
- Increased respiration

16

Ohman et al
(Fear experiment)

- Participants exposed to 3x3 photo matrices
- Task: are the pictures all the same or is 1 different. Determine if they are same/different
- Measured RT
- Images were either fear relevant (snakes/spiders) or irrelevant

Results
- (chart) Performance for discrimination in each image position on the screen
- Snakes and spiders detected faster/more accurately than flowers/mushrooms within a matrix of the other distractor
- Effect is stronger if you have a phobia to the fear

17

Face experiment
(Fear experiment and other)

- Does a threatening face caputre our attention like snake/spiders?
- Same paradigm as Ohman et al. except with illustrated faces with emotional expression (through eyebrow direction and mouth)
- Tested with friendly, scheming, sad, threatening and neutral expressions

Results
- Our reaction time and accuracy is much better for threatening faces only

- Tested if it's based on a place cell as a proximate theory and examined if inverted faces have the same results (is it encoded at a deep brain level)
- Why inverted: Low level facial perception is tested with this method. Inverted faces are difficult to process and encourages you to focus on how the lines are arranged)

Results:
- Emotional distractors negatively influence our accuracy and reaction time
- Still an advantage regardless of inversion or what kind of distractor it is
- We still interpret inverted faces as faces.
- ** Threatening faces act like snakes/spiders**
- See chart

18

Cognition Summary

- Attention & memory limited resource
- Adaptive allocation with respect to specific adaptive problems
- Observable in mating, foraging, and threat contexts