Attentional requirements in perceptual grouping depend on the processes involved in the organization

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Previous studies on the role of attention in perceptual grouping have yielded contradicting findings, some suggesting that grouping requires attention and others indicating that it does not. Kimchi and Razpurker-Apfeld (Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 11(4), 687–696, 2004) showed that attentional demands in grouping could vary according to the processes involved. The current study expanded on this, examining whether attentional demands vary for (a) different grouping principles and (b) as a function of contingent processing of element segregation and shape formation. We used the inattention paradigm with an online measure, in which participants engaged in an attentionally demanding change-detection task on a small matrix presented on a task-irrelevant backdrop of grouped elements. The backdrop grouping changed or stayed the same independently of any change in the target. Congruency effects produced by changes in backdrop grouping on target-change judgments indicate that the backdrop grouping was accomplished under inattention. The results showed congruency effects when grouping formed columns/rows by proximity but not by shape similarity, and when grouping into a distinct shape by collinearity did not involve element segregation. No congruency effects were found when grouping into a shape by collinearity or connectedness involved element segregation, except when connectedness was combined with color similarity. These results suggest that attentional demands depend on the combination of grouping principles and the complexity of the processes involved in the organization. These findings provide further support for the view that perceptual organization is a multiplicity of processes that vary in attentional demands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2073-2087
Number of pages15
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Israel Foundation Trustees (IFT) Research Grant for Doctorates in Social Sciences to E.R. and by Max Wertheimer Minerva Center for Cognitive Processes and Human Performance, University of Haifa. The authors thank Anna Trostianitser and Irina Fridburg for their help in data collection.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, The Psychonomic Society, Inc.


  • Attention
  • Divided attention and inattention
  • Grouping and segmentation
  • Perceptual organization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Linguistics and Language


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