Affect-congruent attention drives changes in reward expectations
Positive and negative affective states are respectively associated with optimistic and pessimistic expectations regarding future reward. One mechanism that might underlie these affect-related expectation biases is attention to positive- versus negative-valence stimulus features (e.g., attending to the positive reviews of a restaurant versus its expensive price). Here we tested the effects of experimentally induced positive and negative affect on feature-based attention in 120 participants completing a compound-generalization task with eye-tracking. We found that participants' reward expectations for novel compound stimuli were modulated by the affect induction in an affect-congruent way: positive affect increased reward expectations for compounds, whereas negative affect decreased reward expectations. Computational modelling and eye-tracking analyses each revealed that these effects were driven by affect-congruent changes in participants' allocation of attention to high- versus low-value features of compound stimuli. These results provide mechanistic insight into a process by which affect produces biases in generalized reward expectations.