Subitizing requires attention

C.N.L. Olivers, D.G. Watson

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While counting objects is typically a slow, serial process, enumerating about four or fewer objects has been considered to be a relatively effortless, parallel, and even preattentive process often referred to as subitizing. However, by combining a subitizing task with an attentional blink task, we show that subitizing is systematically affected by a closely preceding letter identification task. Vice versa, letter identification is also affected by a closely preceding subitizing task. Importantly, performance not only depended on the time between the two tasks, but also on the number of to-be-enumerated dots, even though this number fell within the subitizing range. The results imply that the processes underlying subitizing require attentional resources, suggesting that they are either serial in nature, or parallel, with capacity limited by the overall resources available.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)439-462
JournalVisual Cognition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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