The visual perception of object shape depends on 'holistic' processing in which a given dimension cannot be perceptually isolated from the other dimensions of the object. The visual control of action (such as grasping an object), however, which is mediated by cortical areas that are largely independent of those mediating conscious perception, must take into account only the most action-relevant dimension of an object without being misled by other non-relevant object features. Here we report the results of two experiments showing that vision for perception and vision for action deal with objects in a fundamentally different manner. We tested participants' ability to make perceptual judgements of the width of different rectangular objects or to grasp them across their width, while in both cases ignoring length. Participants could not ignore length when making perceptual judgements of width but they could completely ignore length when grasping the same objects. These results suggest that in situations in which the elementary dimensions of an object's shape are perceived in a holistic manner, the same dimensions are treated analytically when a visually guided action is directed at that same object.