Learning theories categorize learning systems into elemental and contextual systems, the former being processed by non-hippocampal regions and the latter being processed in the hippocampus. A set of complex stimuli such as a visual background is often considered a contextual stimulus and simple sensory stimuli such as pure tone and light are considered elemental stimuli. However, this elemental-contextual categorization scheme has only been tested in limited behavioral paradigms and it is largely unknown whether it can be generalized across different learning situations. By requiring rats to respond differently to a common object in association with various types of sensory cues including contextual and elemental stimuli, we tested whether different types of elemental and contextual sensory stimuli depended on the hippocampus to different degrees. In most rats, a surrounding visual background and a tactile stimulus served as contextual (hippocampal dependent) and elemental (non-hippocampal dependent) stimuli, respectively. However, simple tone and light stimuli frequently used as elemental cues in traditional experiments required the hippocampus to varying degrees among rats. Specifically, one group of rats showed a normal contextual bias when both contextual and elemental cues were present. These rats effectively switched to using elemental cues when the hippocampus was inactivated. The other group showed a strong contextual bias (and hippocampal dependence) because these rats were not able to use elemental cues when the hippocampus was unavailable. It is possible that the latter group of rats might have interpreted the elemental cues (light and tone) as background stimuli and depended more on the hippocampus in associating the cues with choice responses. Although exact mechanisms underlying these individual variances are unclear, our findings recommend a caution for adopting a simple sensory stimulus as a non-hippocampal sensory cue only based on the literature.