Crossmodal discrimination of 2 vs. 4 objects across touch and vision in 5-month-old infants

PLoS One. 2015 Mar 23;10(3):e0120868. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0120868. eCollection 2015.


Infants are known to possess two different cognitive systems to encode numerical information. The first system encodes approximate numerosities, has no known upper limit and is functional from birth on. The second system relies on infants' ability to track up to 3 objects in parallel, and enables them to represent exact numerosity for such small sets. It is unclear, however, whether infants may be able to represent numerosities from all ranges in a common format. In various studies, infants failed to discriminate a small vs. a large numerosity (e.g., 2 vs. 4, 3 vs. 6), although more recent studies presented evidence that infants can succeed at these discriminations in some situations. Here, we used a transfer paradigm between the tactile and visual modalities in 5-month-olds, assuming that such cross-modal paradigm may promote access to abstract representations of numerosities, continuous across the small and large ranges. Infants were first familiarized with 2 to 4 objects in the tactile modality, and subsequently tested for their preference between 2 vs. 4, or 3 vs. 6 visual objects. Results were mixed, with only partial evidence that infants may have transferred numerical information across modalities. Implications on 5-month-old infants' ability to represent small and large numerosities in a single or in separate formats are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cognition
  • Discrimination Learning*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Touch*
  • Visual Perception*

Grants and funding

This work was supported by a Starting Grant from the European Research Council awarded to V.I. (Project MathConstruction 263179). The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.