Object Recognition


Our ability to recognise objects is an essential cognitive ability and stage within our perceptual experience of the world. How the underlying processes of object recognition interact is of particular interest in neuroscience research and also has implications for the built environment.



Object recognition can be explained through the 'proactive brain framework', a model that suggests there are bottom-up and top-down cognitive processes that occur in parallel.

  • Bottom-up processes relate to the external sensorial information extracted from the outside world.

  • Top-down processes refer to the generation of predictions of what we might be seeing based on our past-experiences.

Specifically, predictions are derived from the activation of context frames, a set of associated representations that contain both spatial and non-spatial information.



Neuroscience research on object-recognition has investigated how these two processes interact and the underlying brain regions associated.

Top-down predictions have been shown to influence bottom-up processes by reducing the degree of bottom-up input extraction, allowing for a faster interpretation and hence object recognition to occur.

Prediction generation has been associated with activity in the medial temporal lobe (MTL), medial parietal cortex (MPC) and medial pre-frontal cortex (mPFC). Early visual areas have been shown to feed the bottom-up input information to the orbito-frontal cortex (OFC) which then activates prediction generation within the temporal cortex.


Understanding how our object recognition processes are driven allows us to understand from a neuroscientific perspective why we need to create coherent and understandable spaces.

The theory is most relevant for spaces in the public realm (transport spaces, commercial property) and office developments where an understanding of the processes underlying our perception can help reduce unnecessary distractions and create more cognitively coherent spaces.

This is particuarly important consideration when it comes to wayfinding, where we rely on congruent physical stimuli such as landmarks to aid our navigation.



Visual prediction and perceptual expertise, Olivia S. Cheung and Moshe Bar, 2001. - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3354617/

Top-down facilitation of visual object recognition: object-based and context-based contributions, Fenske MJAminoff EGronau NBar M. 2006. - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17027376

Spatial context in recognition. Bar MUllman S. 1996 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8804097