Visual object recognition

Annu Rev Neurosci. 1996:19:577-621. doi: 10.1146/


Visual object recognition is of fundamental importance to most animals. The diversity of tasks that any biological recognition system must solve suggests that object recognition is not a single, general purpose process. In this review, we consider evidence from the fields of psychology, neuropsychology, and neurophysiology, all of which supports the idea that there are multiple systems for recognition. Data from normal adults, infants, animals, and brain damaged patients reveal a major distinction between the classification of objects at a basic category level and the identification of individual objects from a homogeneous object class. An additional distinction between object representations used for visual perception and those used for visually guided movements provides further support for a multiplicity of visual recognition systems. Recent evidence from psychophysical and neurophysiological studies indicates that one system may represent objects by combinations of multiple views, or aspects, and another may represent objects by structural primitives and their spatial interrelationships.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / physiopathology
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / psychology
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Depth Perception
  • Facial Expression
  • Form Perception*
  • Haplorhini
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Learning
  • Retina / physiology
  • Rotation
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology
  • Visual Perception*