Indexing and the object concept: Developing 'what' and 'where' systems

Alan M. Leslie, Fei Xu, Patrice D. Tremoulet, Brian J. Scholl

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

284 Scopus citations


The study of object cognition over the past 25 years has proceeded in two largely non-interacting camps. One camp has studied object-based visual attention in adults, while the other has studied the object concept in infants. We briefly review both sets of literature and distill from the adult research a theoretical model that we apply to findings from the infant studies. The key notion in our model of object representation is the 'sticky' index, a mechanism of selective attention that points at a physical object in a location. An object index goes not represent any of the properties of the entity at which it points. However, once an index is pointing to an object, the properties of that object can be examined and featural information can be associated with, or 'bound' to, its index. The distinction between indexing and feature binding underwrites the distinction between object individuation and object identification, a distinction that turns out to be crucial in both the adult attention and the infant object-concept literature. By developing the indexing model, we draw together two disparate sets of literature and suggest new ways to study object-based attention in infancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-18
Number of pages9
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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