Theories Of Object Perception

Object perception begins with retinal receptors firing in response to light rays that have bounced off the to-be-perceived object and into the eye. The pattern of firing rates over the millions of receptor cells represents the object, in that this particular pattern of firing will result whenever the object is seen from this viewpoint and distance, under these lighting conditions, etc. However, as described in Section I, this representation changes drastically when the object rotates, the lighting direction changes, the observer moves toward or away from the object, etc.

Theories of object perception seek to explain how the visual system compensates for such changes to viewing circumstances, transforming the ever-changing retinal representation into a stable representation of an object. The low-level visual processes described in Section II, which organize the retinal output into collections of elementary features, begin this transformation, but theorists disagree on how these feature assemblies are used to ultimately produce object constancy. No single model enjoys universal support, so that rather than catalog the numerous theories that have been proposed, more general distinctions between classes of theories are described next.

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