Pupil diameter reflects uncertainty in attentional selection during visual search

Joy J. Geng, Zachary Blumenfeld, Terence L. Tyson, Michael J. Minzenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Pupil diameter has long been used as a metric of cognitive processing. However, recent advances suggest that the cognitive sources of change in pupil size may reflect LC-NE function and the calculation of unexpected uncertainty in decision processes (Aston-Jones and Cohen, 2005; Yu and Dayan, 2005). In the current experiments, we explored the role of uncertainty in attentional selection on task-evoked changes in pupil diameter during visual search. We found that task-evoked changes in pupil diameter were related to uncertainty during attentional selection as measured by reaction time (RT) and performance accuracy (Experiments 1-2). Control analyses demonstrated that the results are unlikely to be due to error monitoring or response uncertainty. Our results suggest that pupil diameter can be used as an implicit metric of uncertainty in ongoing attentional selection requiring effortful control processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number435
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberAUGUST
StatePublished - Aug 4 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Attentional selection
  • Cognitive control
  • LC-NE system
  • Pupillometry
  • Uncertainty
  • Visual search

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Neurology
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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