Multiple object individuation and subitizing in enumeration: a view from electrophysiology

Front Hum Neurosci. 2015 Apr 2;9:162. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00162. eCollection 2015.


What are the processes involved in determining that there are exactly n objects in the visual field? The core level of representation for this process is based on a mechanism that iteratively individuates each of the set of relevant objects for exact enumeration. In support of this proposal, we review recent electrophysiological findings on enumeration-at-a-glance and consider three temporally distinct responses of the EEG signal that are modulated by object numerosity, and which have been associated respectively with perceptual modulation, attention selection, and working memory. We argue that the neural response associated with attention selection shows the hallmarks of an object individuation mechanism, including the property of simultaneous individuation of a limited number of objects thought to underlie the behavioral subitizing effect. The findings support the view that the core component of exact enumeration is an attention-based individuation mechanism that binds specific features to locations and provides a stable representation of a limited set of relevant objects. The resulting representation is made available for further cognitive operations for exact enumeration.

Keywords: EEG; N2pc; enumeration; object individuation; subitizing.

Publication types

  • Review