# Are representations of unattended objects “bound”?

In our phenomenal experience, different features of an object, like shape and color, seem to be "bound" together into a single percept, even though those features are represented in different parts of the brain. Explaining this phenomenon is known as the "binding problem."

If I look at a red apple, the internal representations of its red-ness and its apple shape are bound together. But what if I am not looking at the red apple -- what if my visual attention is not on the red apple? In that case, are the object's "redness" and "appleness" still bound together? Or does binding require attentional focus? Does it require consciousness?

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FWIW, I don't see how loss of attention (let alone consciousness) would dichotomize redness from appleness, nor separate its shape. I could see some of these characteristics being blurred or ignored, but I have trouble imagining a way of accessing these representations (as would seem to be necessary for a falsifiable hypothesis) without attention or consciousness on the part of the internal representer. I guess that's why I'm not a cognitive psychologist by specialty. – Nick Stauner Feb 11 '14 at 19:22

Assuming that the perception enters consciousness as a gestalt with all attributes bound, then when attention is diverted and the apple no longer present, then the decay of memory sets in. The two models neural-net, and "holographic" suggest different parameters for how to approach a measurement.

Under a "holographic" model, the connection might become more vague, but I think it could still be recalled, perhaps with the assistance of a tertiary related stimulus: viz. recalling a memory from an scent.

In a weighted-feedback neural-net model, you'd be looking for the moment when the physical link between the attributes decays, I think. Literally, the moment it becomes subliminal.

I'm thinking of McCulloch/Pitts nets specifically, as described in Marvin Minsky, Finite and Infinite Machines, a classic, but not recent source.

A cortex would be connected through layers to shape detectors and redness detectors, and these would connect to associative areas. The strength of the association would be dependant upon the weights of the neural connections between the two areas, and would begin to decay after the stimulus is discontinued.

... Or maybe I'm rationalizing with big words to save face after being foiled at a snarky answer?? Does any of this make sense? Does it help? I'm sleepy.

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I don't think this is quite right, though I'm open to being wrong. Two points: – Dave Gottlieb Jan 11 '14 at 13:48
1) There seem to be both conscious and unconscious representations in the brain. This may seem to be contradictory, but it's not. Our consciousness has strictly limited capacity. Some objects may be perceived in the sense of having internal representations, but lose the "race" to become conscious. See for example. 2) A red apple will be simultaneously represented in different brain areas. Its redness in one place, its shape in another. The question is, under what circumstances are those representations "bound"? – Dave Gottlieb Jan 11 '14 at 13:56
Ok. I suppose I see. In a weighted-feedback neural-net model, you'd be looking for the moment when the physical link between the attributes decays? Literally, the moment it becomes subliminal? – luser droog Jan 11 '14 at 14:01
Under a "holographic" model, the connection might become more vague, but I think it could still be recalled, perhaps with the assistance of a tertiary related stimulus: viz. recalling a memory from an scent. – luser droog Jan 11 '14 at 14:04
I don't think I understand. – Dave Gottlieb Jan 11 '14 at 14:05