Perceptual grouping and visual selective attention.
The present study demonstrates that incongruent distractor letters at a constant distance from a target letter produce more response competition and negative priming when they share a target's color than when they have a different color. Moreover, perceptual grouping by means of color, attenuated the effects of spatial proximity. For example, when all items were presented in the same color, near distractors produced more response competition and negative priming than far distractors (Experiment 3A). However, when near distractors were presented in a different color and far distractors were presented in the same color as the target, the response competition x distractor proximity interaction was eliminated and the proximity x negative priming interaction was reversed (Experiment 3B). A final experiment demonstrated that distractors appearing on the same object as a selected target produced comparable amounts of response competition and negative priming whether they were near or far from the target. This suggests that the inhibitory mechanisms of visual attention can be directed to perceptual groups/objects in the environment and not only to unsegmented regions of visual space.