Reward impacts visual statistical learning

Su Hyoun Park, Leeland L. Rogers, Matthew R. Johnson, Timothy J. Vickery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Humans automatically detect and remember regularities in the visual environment—a type of learning termed visual statistical learning (VSL). Many aspects of learning from reward resemble VSL in certain respects, yet whether and how reward learning impacts VSL is largely unexamined. In two studies, we found that reward contingencies affect VSL, with high-value associated with stronger behavioral and neural signatures of such learning than low-value images. In Experiment 1, participants learned values (high or low) of images through a trial-and-error risky choice task. Unbeknownst to them, images were paired as four types—High-High, High-Low, Low-High, and Low-Low. In subsequent recognition and reward memory tests, participants chose the more familiar of two pairs (a target and a foil) and recalled the value of images. We found better recognition when the first images of pairs have high-values, with High-High pairs showing the highest recognition rate. In Experiment 2, we provided evidence that both value and statistical contingencies affected brain responses. When we compared responses between the high-value first image and the low-value first image, greater activation in regions that included inferior frontal gyrus, anterior cingulate gyrus, hippocampus, among other regions, were found. These findings were driven by the interaction between statistically structured information and reward—the same value contrast yielded no regions for second-image contrasts and for singletons. Our results suggest that when reward information is embedded in stimulus-stimulus associations, it may alter the learning process; specifically, the higher-value first image potentially enables better memory for statistically learned pairs and reward information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1176-1195
Number of pages20
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Memory
  • Reward
  • Reward motivation
  • Visual statistical learning
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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