Feature-placing and proto-objects
This paper contrasts three different schemes of reference relevant to understanding systems of perceptual representation: a location-based system dubbed "feature-placing", a system of "visual indices" referring to things called "proto-objects", and the full sortalbased individuation allowed by a natural language. The first three sections summarize some of the key arguments (in Clark 2000) to the effect that the early, parallel, and pre-attentive registration of sensory features itself
... es itself constitutes a simple system of nonconceptual mental representation. In particular, feature integration--perceiving something as being both F and G, where F and G are sensible properties registered in distinct parallel streams--requires a referential apparatus. Section V. reviews some grounds for thinking that at these earliest levels this apparatus is location-based: that it has a direct and nonconceptual means of picking out places. Feature-placing is contrasted with a somewhat more sophisticated system that can identify and track four or five "perceptual objects" or "proto-objects", independently of their location, for as long as they remain perceptible. Such a system is found in Zenon Pylyshyn's fascinating work on "visual indices", in Dana Ballard's notion of deictic codes, and in Kahneman, Treisman, and Wolfe's accounts of systems of evanescent representations they call "object files". Perceptual representation is a layered affair, and I argue that it probably includes both featureplacing and proto-objects. Finally, both nonconceptual systems are contrasted with the full-blooded individuation allowed in a natural language.