A Neuro-Phenomenological Review of Object Recognition


  • Rotem Balter University of Vienna


Object recognition is the process of detecting and classifying an object in our visual experience, it is a part of „sense making“ of our perpetual experience. The visual processing of detection and classification is done in a matter of milliseconds and may seem seamless in our daily experience.

There are a few gaps in our understanding of this process. First, the issue of generalizing the different data items to create categories for classification, the main issue in this process is the huge variability between appearances of the same item, due to lighting or viewpoint for example. The second gap is explaining how the high specificity in assigning a category to an object is achieved, for example, different specificity levels could be a building, a home and my home. Thus, it is required to distinguish between very close categories [1].

Further, studies have described some intriguing phenomena related to object recognition, for example, becoming conscious of an object after already doing a reflexive action related to it, such as avoiding a car that comes towards you suddenly while driving [2, 3].

In this project I would like to study the topic of object recognition from a few angles. First, how is object recognition perceived in experience? Second, how neurophysiological research describe the mental process of object recognition?

I would also like to find parallels between the neurophysiological processes and our experience of object recognition. I expect there will be parallels between both disciplines, so that the neurophysiological description could explain the phenomenological description.

In addition, I might find parts of the phenomenon that have not yet been studied well in a neurophysiological experiment.

I would like to perform a meta-analysis on the topic, with two main concentration topics: the phenomenological aspect, neuroscientific and physiological aspect. Using my conclusions, I would like to formulate suggestions for future research.


[1] M. Riesenhuber and T. Poggio, “Models of object recognition,” Nature Neuroscience, vol. 3, no. S11, pp. 1199–1204, Nov. 2000. doi:10.1038/81479

[2] R. Gregori-Grgič, M. Balderi, and C. de’Sperati, “Delayed Perceptual Awareness in Rapid Perceptual Decisions,” PLoS ONE, vol. 6, no. 2, p. e17079, Feb. 17, 2011. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017079

[3] J. Jolij, H. S. Scholte, S. van Gaal, T. L. Hodgson, and V. A. F. Lamme, “Act Quickly, Decide Later: Long-latency Visual Processing Underlies Perceptual Decisions but Not Reflexive Behavior,” Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, vol. 23, no. 12, pp. 3734–3745, Dec. 01, 2011. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00034