Auditory and visual objects

Cognition. 2001 Jun;80(1-2):97-126. doi: 10.1016/s0010-0277(00)00155-4.


Notions of objecthood have traditionally been cast in visuocentric terminology. As a result, theories of auditory and cross-modal perception have focused more on the differences between modalities than on the similarities. In this paper we re-examine the concept of an object in a way that overcomes the limitations of the traditional perspective. We propose a new, cross-modal conception of objecthood which focuses on the similarities between modalities instead of the differences. Further, we propose that the auditory system might consist of two parallel streams of processing (the 'what' and 'where' subsystems) in a manner analogous to current conceptions of the visual system. We suggest that the 'what' subsystems in each modality are concerned with objecthood. Finally, we present evidence for - and elaborate on - the hypothesis that the auditory 'where' subsystem is in the service of the visual-motor 'where' subsystem.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Perception* / physiology
  • Concept Formation
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological
  • Neurophysiology
  • Sound Localization / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology
  • Visual Perception* / physiology