Paula Andrea Maldonado Moscoso, Giuseppe Maduli, Giovanni Anobile, Roberto Arrighi and Elisa Castaldi

The symmetry-induced numerosity illusion depends on visual attention

Scientific Reports

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-39581-w Download

Symmetry is an important and strong cue we rely on to organize the visual world. Although it is at the basis of objects segmentation in a visual scene, it can sometimes bias our perception. When asked to discriminate numerical quantities between symmetric and asymmetric arrays, individuals tend to underestimate the number of items in the symmetric stimuli. The reason for this underestimation is currently unknown. In this study we investigated whether the symmetry‑induced numerosity underestimation depends on perceptual grouping mechanisms by depriving attentional resources. Twenty‑six adults judged the numerosity of dot arrays arranged symmetrically or randomly, while ignoring a visual distractor (single task) or while simultaneously judging its color and orientation (dual‑task). Diverting attention to the concurrent color–orientation conjunction task halved the symmetry‑induced numerosity underestimation. Taken together these results showed that the bias in numerosity perception of symmetric arrays depends—at least partially—on attentional resources and suggested that it might originate from the recruitment of attentional dependent incremental grouping mechanisms.