During manual sensing of object attributes like surface texture, the tactile receptor sheet is conjointly activated at numerous loci. What is the role of spatially selective attention in perception under these conditions? We show that the requirement for spatial focus of attention is minimal in the detection of an abrupt change in texture. In contrast, spatial attention may help in a variety of other tasks of comparable difficulty. These include detecting the absence of a texture change at one of many loci, distinguishing its direction, and discriminating between different textures. Attentional demand appears to vary along a continuum in these tasks, rather than being all-or-none.