Selective attention involves the differential processing of different stimuli, and has widespread psychological and neural consequences. Although computational modeling should offer a powerful way of linking observable phenomena at different levels, most work has focused on the relatively narrow issue of constraints on processing resources. By contrast, we consider statistical and informational aspects of selective attention, divorced from resource constraints, which are evident in animal conditioning experiments involving uncertain predictions and unreliable stimuli. Neuromodulatory systems and limbic structures are known to underlie attentional effects in such tasks.
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We are grateful to Nathaniel Daw, Anthony Dickinson, Alex Kacelnik, Theresa Long, Terry Sejnowski, and Rich Sutton for discussions covering many of these issues, and particularly to Nathaniel Daw for comments on an earlier version of this paper. The authors' work is funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation (P.D. and S.K.), the National Science Foundation (S.K.) and NIDA (P.R.M.).
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