Categorical perception of familiar objects

Fiona N. Newell, Heinrich H. Bülthoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


We report three experiments where the categorical perception of familiar, three-dimensional objects was investigated. A continuum of shape change between 15 pairs of objects was created and the images along the continuum were used as stimuli. In Experiment 1 participants were first required to discriminate pairs of images of objects that lay along the shape continuum. Then participants were asked to classify each morph-image into one of two pre-specified classes. We found evidence for categorical perception in some but not all of our object pairs. In Experiment 2 we varied the viewpoint of the objects in the discrimination task and found that effects of categorical perception generalized across changes in view. In Experiment 3 similarity ratings for each object pair were collected. These similarity scores correlated with the degree of perceptual categorization found for the object pairs. Our findings suggest that some familiar objects are perceived categorically and that categorical perception is closely tied to inter-object perceptual similarity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-143
Number of pages31
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • Categorical perception
  • Object recognition
  • Shape perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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