Capture and Control: Overcoming Distraction by Reward-Related Stimuli - A/Prof Mike Le Pelley

What is this research about?

Even when we are trying our best to concentrate on a certain task, we've all had the experience of being distracted; of having our attention captured, regardless of our efforts to maintain focus.

Recent research shows we are more likely to be distracted by events that have previously been associated with rewarding outcomes (money, food, sex etc). This project aims to establish the cognitive processes underlying distraction by reward-related stimuli, and in particular if it can be reduced by 'attentional control' processes.

This will shed light on how to minimise distraction when it is most detrimental: e.g. when our safety depends on staying focussed (such as when driving), or for recovering addicts trying to ignore drug-related stimuli.

Other researchers involved:

Dr Steven Most, UNSW
Dr Tom Beesley, UNSW
Dr David Luque, UNSW
Dr Oren Griffiths, UNSW
Daniel Pearson, UNSW
Lucy Albertella, UNSW
Prof Jan Copeland, UNSW & National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre
Prof Jan Theeuwes, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Prof Reinout Wiers, University of Amsterdam

Publications relating to this research:

Albertella, L., Le Pelley, M.E., & Copeland, J. (2015). Cannabis use, schizotypy, and negative priming. Psychiatry Research, 228, 404-410.

Albertella, L., Le Pelley, M.E., & Copeland, J. (2016). Frequent cannabis use is associated with reduced negative priming among females. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 24, 313-319.

Failing, M.F., Nissens, T., Pearson, D., Le Pelley, M.E., & Theeuwes, J. (2015). Oculomotor capture by stimuli that signal the availability of reward. Journal of Neurophysiology, 114, 2316-2327.

Le Pelley, M.E., Beesley, T., & Griffiths, O. (2016). Associative learning and derived attention in humans. In R.A. Murphy & R.C. Honey (Eds.), The Wiley Blackwell Handbook on the Cognitive Neuroscience of Learning (pp. 114-135). Chichester, UK: Wiley.

Le Pelley, M.E., Mitchell, C.J., Beesley, T., George, D.N., & Wills, A.J. (2016). Attention and associative learning in humans: An integrative review. Psychological Bulletin, 142, 1111-1140.

Le Pelley, M.E., Pearson, D., Griffiths, O., & Beesley, T. (2015). When goals conflict with values: Counterproductive attentional and oculomotor capture by reward-related stimuli. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 144, 158-171.

Pearson, D., Donkin, C., Tran, S.C., Most, S.B., & Le Pelley, M.E. (2015). Cognitive control and counterproductive oculomotor capture by reward-related stimuli. Visual Cognition, 23, 41-66.

Pearson, D., Osborn, R., Whitford, T.J., Failing, M., Theeuwes, J., & Le Pelley, M.E. (2016). Value-modulated oculomotor capture by task-irrelevant stimuli is a consequence of early competition on the saccade map. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 78, 2226-2240.

Grants awarded:

Le Pelley ME, Most SB, Theeuwes J & Wiers RW (01/17 – 01/20). ARC Discovery Project DP170101715. Capture and control: Overcoming distraction by reward-related stimuli.


To find out more information about this research, please contact Associate Professor Mike Le Pelley.