Rewarding and aversive outcomes have opposing effects on behavior, facilitating approach and avoidance, although we need to accurately anticipate each type of outcome to behave effectively. Attention is biased toward stimuli that have been learned to predict either type of outcome, and it remains an open question whether such orienting is driven by separate systems for value- and threat-based orienting or whether there exists a common underlying mechanism of attentional control driven by motivational salience. Here, we provide a direct comparison of the neural correlates of value- and threat-based attentional capture after associative learning. Across multiple measures of behavior and brain activation, our findings overwhelmingly support a motivational salience account of the control of attention. We conclude that there exists a core mechanism of experience-dependent attentional control driven by motivational salience and that prior characterizations of attention as being value driven or supporting threat monitoring need to be revisited.

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