The Analysis of Object Recognition

by Ulrike Pompe

Visual experience is not only phenomenally rich; its contents elicit feelings and moods, trigger memories and allow a great number of associations. While visually experiencing a scene or an object, we already abstract from it and perform a variety of higher cognitive tasks in order to relate to the objects and to adjust our behavior to the situation. For the subject, these capacities seem to be phenomenally interwoven with the sensory experience. In fact, many philosophers have been at pains to make a distinction between the sensory parts of perception and those that are already influenced by knowledge or by other higher cognitive capacities. This richness of experience very often represents a puzzle that seems insoluble by empirical investigation. I want to contribute to a solution by claiming that one step towards an understanding of the dense phenomenon of perception is to introduce different stages of perception.

Therefore, I would like to introduce a model that allows us to distinguish the mere processes underlying perception from the content of perception, and this again from the judgment about this perceptual content.

The central hypothesis consists in a three-stage model that explains the increase of cognitive influences on perception. The first stage comprises basic sensory information processing, the second comprises the content of perception, and the third stage consists of those higher cognitive systems that enable the subject to make judgments on its perceptual content. Each stage is seen as a distinct element of visual object analysis.

The model shows how different stages of object perception may be characterized, under what conditions certain kinds of object-related knowledge can be activated and what sorts of perceptual abilities appear to be prerequisites for successful recognition of objects.

Furthermore, it shall show that the content of visual experience is not only determined by its underlying neurophysiological and neuropsychological processes, but that there is another important component which works in a top-down manner shaping our visual experience.

Conscious visual experience is therefore influenced and shaped by two sides: a bottom-up component (its underlying processes), and a top-down component, which together are responsible for the “aboutness-structure” of the phenomenal character of visual experience. T


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