I know that in the visual cortex there are separate visual pathways for both color and shape. Do these separate pathways imply that human beings become consciously aware of these features separately or are they bound unconsciously?


2 Answers 2


It is something of an oversimplification to say that

there are separate visual pathways for both color and shape.

There are many cells, even in V1, which are selective for both colour and shape (or at least orientation). While there are regions more sensitive to some features than others, there are plenty of neurons which combine features. It is also not clear what you mean by becoming conscious of these features separately. Clearly, we can know both that there is something red in front of us and that it is a square. You may have also experienced a flash of a colour without knowing the form, so in that sense, they are separable in consciousness.

The combination of these things is indeed a difficult problem akin to the binding problem. Bruce's answer gives some good background and here is a paper about binding in vision. More generally, binding in feature integration theory requires features to be linked to locations (plausible given topographical organisation in cortex).


They are bound unconsciously, and this is known as the binding problem. You can make experiments (using very short durations and/or "masks") however, to interfere with this process. The result is that sometimes you consciously bind the wrong color and shape.

  • $\begingroup$ Do you have references to these experiments? $\endgroup$
    – Seanny123
    Nov 10, 2015 at 0:26
  • $\begingroup$ It is in most Vision textbooks, but I will try to find the original reference $\endgroup$ Nov 10, 2015 at 0:32

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