Range dependent processing of visual numerosity: similarities across vision and haptics

Exp Brain Res. 2010 Aug;204(4):525-37. doi: 10.1007/s00221-010-2319-y. Epub 2010 Jun 12.


'Subitizing' refers to fast and accurate judgement of small numerosities, whereas for larger numerosities either counting or estimation are used. Counting is slow and precise, whereas estimation is fast but imprecise. In this study consisting of five experiments we investigated if and how the numerosity judgement process is affected by the relative spacing between the presented numerosities. To this end we let subjects judge the number of dots presented on a screen and recorded their response times. Our results show that subjects switch from counting to estimation if the relative differences between subsequent numerosities are large (a factor of 2), but that numerosity judgement in the subitizing range was still faster. We also show this fast performance for small numerosities only occurred when numerosity information is present. This indicates this is typical for number processing and not magnitude estimation in general. Furthermore, comparison with a previous haptic study suggests similar processing in numerosity judgement through haptics and vision.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Female
  • Hand
  • Hand Strength / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Psychological
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Reaction Time
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Regression Analysis
  • Touch Perception / physiology*
  • Vision, Ocular
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult