A shared numerical representation for action and perception

Giovanni Anobile, Roberto Arrighi, Irene Togoli, David Charles Burr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Humans and other species have perceptual mechanisms dedicated to estimating approximate quantity: a sense of number. Here we show a clear interaction between self-produced actions and the perceived numerosity of subsequent visual stimuli. A short period of rapid fingertapping (without sensory feedback) caused subjects to underestimate the number of visual stimuli presented near the tapping region; and a period of slow tapping caused overestimation. The distortions occurred both for stimuli presented sequentially (series of flashes) and simultaneously (clouds of dots); both for magnitude estimation and forced-choice comparison. The adaptation was spatially selective, primarily in external, real-world coordinates. Our results sit well with studies reporting links between perception and action, showing that vision and action share mechanisms that encode numbers: a generalized number sense, which estimates the number of self-generated as well as external events.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere16161
Issue numberAUGUST
Publication statusPublished - Aug 9 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Medicine(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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    Anobile, G., Arrighi, R., Togoli, I., & Burr, D. C. (2016). A shared numerical representation for action and perception. eLife, 5(AUGUST), [e16161]. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.16161.001