Loss of stored knowledge of object structure : implications for "category-specific" deficits
Following a right-hemisphere lesion, the patient SM had impaired object recognition, with good elementary visual abilities, and could derive information about object structure. He was also impaired on all tasks tapping stored structural knowledge, even when tested in the verbal modality. This suggests that SM has a disorder affecting stored knowledge of object structure, though he remains able to assemble novel structural descriptions. His object recognition ability also appeared significantly worse for non-living things. By contrast, existing models relating to stored knowledge would predict that SM would show greater impairment with living things. We argue that SM's deficit reflects the loss of a type of structural knowledge that relates to the “within-item structural diversity” of items. It is argued that living things show less structural variation than objects in the natural world, and might arguably be easier to recognise, because the image of the to-be-recognised object would be similar to the stored representation. Hence, a deficit affecting this aspect of stored knowledge would differentially impact upon non-living things. This argument receives confirming independent support from the finding that normal subjects ratings for the within-item structural diversity of visual stimuli are (unlike other “critical” variables) significant predictors of SM's naming performance.