Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The nature of visual object representation in the brain is the subject of a prolonged debate. One set of theories asserts that objects are represented by their structural description and the representation is “object-centered.” Theories from the other side of the debate suggest that humans store multiple “snapshots” for each object, depicting it as seen under various conditions, and the representation is therefore “viewer-centered.” The principal tool that has been used to support and criticize each of these hypotheses is subjects' performance in recognizing objects under novel viewing conditions. For example, if subjects take more time in recognizing an object from an unfamiliar viewpoint, it is common to claim that the representation of that object is viewpoint-dependent and therefore viewer-centered. It is suggested here, however, that performance cost in recognition of objects under novel conditions may be misleading when studying the nature of object representation. Specifically, it is argued that viewpoint-dependent performance is not necessarily an indication of viewer-centered representation. An account for the neural basis of perceptual priming is first provided. In light of this account, it is conceivable that viewpoint dependency reflects the utilization of neural paths with different levels of sensitivity en route to the same representation, rather than the existence of viewpoint-specific representations. New experimental paradigms are required to study the validity of the viewer-centered approach.