Perceptual organization and visual attention

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Perceptual organization - the processes structuring visual information into coherent units - and visual attention - the processes by which some visual information in a scene is selected - are crucial for the perception of our visual environment and to visuomotor behavior. Recent research points to important relations between attentional and organizational processes. Several studies demonstrated that perceptual organization constrains attentional selectivity, and other studies suggest that attention can also constrain perceptual organization. In this chapter I focus on two aspects of the relationship between perceptual organization and attention. The first addresses the question of whether or not perceptual organization can take place without attention. I present findings demonstrating that some forms of grouping and figure-ground segmentation can occur without attention, whereas others require controlled attentional processing, depending on the processes involved and the conditions prevailing for each process. These findings challenge the traditional view, which assumes that perceptual organization is a unitary entity that operates preattentively. The second issue addresses the question of whether perceptual organization can affect the automatic deployment of attention. I present findings showing that the mere organization of some elements in the visual field by Gestalt factors into a coherent perceptual unit (an "object"), with no abrupt onset or any other unique transient, can capture attention automatically in a stimulus-driven manner. Taken together, the findings discussed in this chapter demonstrate the multifaceted, interactive relations between perceptual organization and visual attention.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAttention
EditorsNarayanan Srinivasan
Number of pages19
StatePublished - 2009

Publication series

NameProgress in Brain Research
ISSN (Print)0079-6123

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This chapter was supported in part by the Israel Science Foundation Grant No. 94/06 to the author and in part by Max Wertheimer Minerva Center for Cognitive Processes and Human Performance, University of Haifa.


  • attentional capture
  • figure-ground segmentation
  • grouping
  • inattention
  • perceptual organization
  • visual attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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