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Trends Cogn Sci. 2009 Apr;13(4):167-74. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2009.01.008. Epub 2009 Mar 9.

Selecting and perceiving multiple visual objects.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychology, Harvard University, 33 Kirkland Street, Room 780, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. yaodaxu@wjh.harvard.edu


To explain how multiple visual objects are attended and perceived, we propose that our visual system first selects a fixed number of about four objects from a crowded scene based on their spatial information (object individuation) and then encode their details (object identification). We describe the involvement of the inferior intra-parietal sulcus (IPS) in object individuation and the superior IPS and higher visual areas in object identification. Our neural object-file theory synthesizes and extends existing ideas in visual cognition and is supported by behavioral and neuroimaging results. It provides a better understanding of the role of the different parietal areas in encoding visual objects and can explain various forms of capacity-limited processing in visual cognition such as working memory.

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