The question of object–picture recognition has received relatively little attention in both human and comparative psychology; a paradoxical situation given the important use of image technology (e.g. slides, digitised pictures) made by neuroscientists in their experimental investigation of visual cognition. The present review examines the relevant literature pertaining to the question of the correspondence between and:or equivalence of real objects and their pictorial representations in animals and humans. Two classes of reactions towards pictures will be considered in turn: acquired responses in picture recognition experiments and spontaneous responses to pictures of biologically relevant objects (e.g. prey or conspecifics). Our survey will lead to the conclusion that humans show evidence of picture recognition from an early age; this recognition is, however, facilitated by prior exposure to pictures. This same exposure or training effect appears also to be necessary in nonhuman primates as well as in other mammals and in birds. Other factors are also identified as playing a role in the acquired responses to pictures: familiarity with and nature of the stimulus objects, presence of motion in the image, etc. Spontaneous and adapted reactions to pictures are a wide phenomenon present in different phyla including invertebrates but in most instances, this phenomenon is more likely to express confusion between objects and pictures than discrimination and active correspondence between the two. Finally, given the nature of a picture (e.g. bi-dimensionality, reduction of cues related to depth), it is suggested that object–picture recognition be envisioned in various levels, with true equivalence being a limited case, rarely observed in the behaviour of animals and even humans
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