Ten patients with semantic dementia resulting from bilateral anterior temporal lobe atrophy, and 10 matched controls, were tested on an object recognition task in which they were invited to choose (from a four-item array) the picture representing "the same thing" as an object picture that they had just inspected and attempted to name. The target in the response array was never physically identical to the studied picture but differed from it - in the various conditions - in size, angle of view, colour or exemplar (e.g. a different breed of dog). In one test block for each patient, the response array was presented immediately after the studied picture was removed; in another block, a 2 min filled delay was inserted between study and test. The patients performed relatively well when the studied object and target response differed only in the size of the picture on the page, but were significantly impaired as a group in the other three type-of-change conditions, even with no delay between study and test. The five patients whose structural brain imaging revealed major right-temporal atrophy were more impaired overall, and also more affected by the 2 min delay, than the five patients with an asymmetric pattern characterised by predominant left-sided atrophy. These results are interpreted in terms of a hypothesis that successful classification of an object token as an object type is not a pre-semantic ability but rather results from interaction of perceptual and conceptual processing. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.