In four experiments we evaluated whether there is a priority in early perceptual analysis for the global aspect of a nonattended, visual, compound stimulus. In all experiments, two objects were distinguished by being enclosed in either a square or a circle, and each object consisted of a larger letter constructed from smaller letters. Attention was directed to one of the two objects on the basis of either the square/circle distinction (Experiments 1, 2, and 3) or a visual precue (Experiment 4). In agreement with previous findings, for attended objects, the global aspect was identified faster and was more difficult to ignore than the local aspect. However, for nonattended objects, no evidence was found for an overall priority in perceptual processing leading to identification of the global aspect. Rather, the results indicate that there is a priority in perceptual processing for the general category of the global information contained within nonattended objects. Although the results provide some support for the view that global information receives priority during early perceptual analysis, aspects of the results are more consistent with postidentification accounts of global precedence.
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