From Parts to Wholes: Mechanisms of Development in Infant Visual Object Processing


Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, School of Psychology, Birkbeck College, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX, United Kingdom. E-mail:


Visual object processing in infancy is often described as proceeding from an early stage in which object features are processed independently to a later stage in which relations between features are taken into account (e.g., Cohen, 1998). Here we present the Representational Acuity Hypothesis, which argues that this behavioral shift can be explained by a developmental decrease in the size of neural receptive fields in the cortical areas responsible for object representation, together with a tuning to specific object features. We evaluate this hypothesis with a connectionist model of infant perceptual categorization. The model shows a behavioral shift in featural to relational processing consistent with similar results observed in the infant categorization experiments of Younger (1985) and Younger and Cohen (1986).