BACKGROUND: Although the ventral visual stream is understood to be responsible for object recognition, it has been proposed that the dorsal stream may contribute to object recognition by rapidly activating parietal attention mechanisms, prior to ventral stream object processing. METHODS: To investigate the relative contribution of the dorsal visual stream to object recognition a group of tertiary students were divided into good and poor motion coherence groups and assessed on tasks classically assumed to rely on ventral stream processing. Participants were required to identify simple line drawings in two tasks, one where objects were presented abruptly for 50 ms followed by a white-noise mask, the other where contrast was linearly ramped on and off over 325 ms and replaced with a mask. RESULTS: Although both groups only differed in motion coherence performance (a dorsal stream measure), the good motion coherence group showed superior contrast sensitivity for object recognition on the abrupt, but not the ramped presentation tasks. CONCLUSIONS: We propose that abrupt presentation of objects activated attention mechanisms fed by the dorsal stream, whereas the ramped presentation had reduced transience and thus did not activate dorsal attention mechanisms as well. The results suggest that rapid dorsal stream activation may be required to assist with ventral stream object processing.