Similarly oriented objects appear more numerous

J Vis. 2020 Apr 9;20(4):4. doi: 10.1167/jov.20.4.4.


Several non-numerical factors influence the numerical estimation of visual arrays, including the spacing of items and whether they are arranged randomly or symmetrically. Here we report a novel numerosity illusion we term the coherence illusion. When items in an array have a coherent orientation (all pointing in the same direction) they seem to be more numerous than when items are oriented randomly. Participants show parametric effects of orientation coherence in three distinct numerical judgment tasks. These findings are not predicted by any current model of numerical estimation. We discuss array entropy as a possible framework for explaining both the coherence illusion and the previously reported regular-random illusion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illusions / physiology*
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Orientation, Spatial / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult