Color and form information can be decoded in every region of the human ventral visual hierarchy, and at every layer of many convolutional neural networks (CNNs) trained to recognize objects, but how does the coding strength of these features vary over processing? Here, we characterize for these features both their absolute coding strength—how strongly each feature is represented independent of the other feature—and their relative coding strength—how strongly each feature is encoded relative to the other, which could constrain how well a feature can be read out by downstream regions across variation in the other feature. To quantify relative coding strength, we define a measure called the form dominance index that compares the relative influence of color and form on the representational geometry at each processing stage. We analyze brain and CNN responses to stimuli varying based on color and either a simple form feature, orientation, or a more complex form feature, curvature. We find that while the brain and CNNs largely differ in how the absolute coding strength of color and form vary over processing, comparing them in terms of their relative emphasis of these features reveals a striking similarity: For both the brain and for CNNs trained for object recognition (but not for untrained CNNs), orientation information is increasingly de-emphasized, and curvature information is increasingly emphasized, relative to color information over processing, with corresponding processing stages showing largely similar values of the form dominance index.

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