The two sensory systems discussed in this review use similar algorithms for the synthesis of the neuronal selectivity for the stimulus that releases a particular behavior, although the neural circuits, the brain sites involved, and even the species are different. This stimulus selectivity emerges gradually in a neural network organized according to parallel and hierarchical design principles. The parallel channels contain lower order stations with special circuits for the creation of neuronal selectivities for different features of the stimulus. Convergence of the parallel pathways brings these selectivities together at a higher order station for the eventual synthesis of the selectivity for the whole stimulus pattern. The neurons that are selective for the stimulus are at the top of the hierarchy, and they form the interface between the sensory and motor systems or between sensory systems of different modalities. The similarities of these two systems at the level of algorithms suggest the existence of rules of signal processing that transcend different sensory systems and species of animals.