Spontaneous perception of numerosity in humans

G.M. Cicchini, G. Anobile, David C. Burr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Citations (Scopus)


© The Author(s) 2016.Humans, including infants, and many other species have a capacity for rapid, nonverbal estimation of numerosity. However, the mechanisms for number perception are still not clear; some maintain that the system calculates numerosity via density estimates - similar to those involved in texture - while others maintain that more direct, dedicated mechanisms are involved. Here we show that provided that items are not packed too densely, human subjects are far more sensitive to numerosity than to either density or area. In a two-dimensional space spanning density, area and numerosity, subjects spontaneously react with far greater sensitivity to changes in numerosity, than either area or density. Even in tasks where they were explicitly instructed to make density or area judgments, they responded spontaneously to number. We conclude, that humans extract number information, directly and spontaneously, via dedicated mechanisms.
Original languageEnglish
Article number12536
Pages (from-to)12536
Number of pages12536
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2016


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