Half a century of research on garner interference and the separability-integrality distinction

Daniel Algom*, Daniel Fitousi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Research in the allied domains of selective attention and perceptual independence has made great advances over the past 5 decades ensuing from the foundational ideas and research conceived by Wendell R. Garner. In particular, Garner's speeded classification paradigm has received considerable attention in psychology. The paradigm is widely used to inform research and theory in various domains of cognitive science. It was Garner who provided the consensual definition of the separable-integral partition of stimulus dimensions, delineating a set of converging operations sustaining the distinction. This distinction is a pillar of today's cognitive science. We review the key ideas, definitions, and findings along 2 paths of the evolution of Garnerian research: selective attention, with a focus on Garner interference and its relation to the Stroop effect, and divided attention, with focus on perceptual independence gauged by multivariate models of perception. The review tracks developments in a roughly chronological order. Our review is also integrative as we follow the evolution of a set of nascent ideas into the vast multifaceted enterprise that they comprise today. Finally, the review is also critical as we highlight problems, inconsistencies, and deviations from original intent in the various studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1352-1383
Number of pages32
JournalPsychological Bulletin
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2016


  • Garner interference
  • Models of perception and decision
  • Separable-integral dimensions
  • Similarity


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