Antonella Pomè, Diego Thompson, David Charles Burr & Justin Halberda

Location- and object-based attention enhance number estimation

Atten Percept Psychophys (2020)

https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-020-02178-w Download

Humans and non-humans can extract an estimate of the number of items in a collection very rapidly, raising the question of whether attention is necessary for this process. Visual attention operates in various modes, showing selectivity both to spatial location and to objects. Here, we tested whether each form of attention can enhance number estimation, by measuring whether presenting a visual cue to increase attentional engagement will lead to a more accurate and precise representation of number, both when attention is directed to location and when it is directed to objects. Results revealed that enumeration of a collection of dots in the location previously cued led to faster, more precise, and more accurate judgments than enumeration in un-cued locations, and a similar benefit was seen when the cue and collection appeared on the same object. This work shows that like many other perceptual tasks, numerical estimation may be enhanced by the spread of active attention inside a pre-cued object.