Philosophy, Psychology and Neuroscience

Iconicity and Perceptual Representation

Perception is sometimes said to have an “iconic format,” meaning that it is in some important sense picture-like. Several different distinguishing features have been associated with iconicity in the literature. None is fully adequate. I offer a better account of iconicity, which also unifies and accounts for the appeals of the others: iconic representations are those that represent in virtue of their spatial properties. This makes it harder to see how the brain might realize genuinely iconic representation, but there is a broader class of representations having some of the more important features of iconic representations. These “co-similar” representations include iconic representations, but also, importantly, nonspatial representations, including vector representations of the sort familiar from connectionist networks. Even the broader concept of co-similarity is not likely to cover all perceptual representation.