Foundations Of Cognitive Science

Object File

In feature integration theory, a spotlight of attention is volitionally directed to a particular spot on a master map of locations.  This attentional spotlight enables the visual system to integrate features by bringing into register different feature maps at the location of interest.  Different features present at that location can be conjoined together in a temporary object representation called an object file (Kahneman, Treisman, & Gibbs, 1992; Treisman, Kahneman, & Burkell, 1983).  Object files provide a link from visual information to higher-order cognition. Information about detected objects (i.e. features united in object files) can be as cues to access to general knowledge of the world, such as perceptual categories or knowledge about identified objects.  “Conscious perception depends on temporary object representations in which the different features are collected from the dimensional modules and inter-related, then matched to stored descriptions in a long-term visual memory to allow recognition” (Treisman, 1988, p. 204).


  1. Kahneman, D., Treisman, A., & Gibbs, B. J. (1992). The reviewing of object files: Object-specific integration of information. Cognitive Psychology, 24(2), 175-219.
  2. Treisman, A. M. (1988). Features and objects: The fourteenth Bartlett memorial lecture. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 40A, 201-237.
  3. Treisman, A. M., Kahneman, D., & Burkell, J. (1983). Perceptual objects and the cost of filtering. Perception & Psychophysics, 33(6), 527-532.

(Added March 2011)