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Abstract

Animals live in visually complex environments. As a result, visual systems have evolved mechanisms that simplify visual processing and allow animals to focus on the information that is most relevant to adaptive decision making. This review explores two key mechanisms that animals use to efficiently process visual information: categorization and specialization. Categorization occurs when an animal's perceptual system sorts continuously varying stimuli into a set of discrete categories. Specialization occurs when particular classes of stimuli are processed using distinct cognitive operations that are not used for other classes of stimuli. We also describe a nonadaptive consequence of simplifying heuristics: visual illusions, where visual perception consistently misleads the viewer about the state of the external world or objects within it. We take an explicitly comparative approach by exploring similarities and differences in visual cognition across human and nonhuman taxa. Considering areas of convergence and divergence across taxa provides insight into the evolution and function of visual systems and associated perceptual strategies.

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/content/journals/10.1146/annurev-vision-100923-015932
2024-05-20
2024-06-18
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/content/journals/10.1146/annurev-vision-100923-015932
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  • Article Type: Review Article
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