Numbers reorient visuo-spatial attention during cancellation tasks

Samuel Di Luca, Mauro Pesenti, Giuseppe Vallar, Luisa Girelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Numbers induce shifts of spatial attention on the left or the right sides of external space as a function of their magnitude. However, whether this number-space association is restricted to the linear horizontal extensions, or extends to the whole visual scene, is still an open question. This study investigates, by means of a cancellation paradigm, the influence of numerical magnitude during scanning tasks in which participants freely explore complex visual scenes unconstrained towards either the horizontal or the vertical unidimensional axes. Five cancellation tasks were adapted in which Arabic digits were used as targets or distracters, in structured (lines and columns) or unstructured visual displays, with a smaller (2 or 3 types of distracters) or larger (10 or more types of distracters) sets of stimuli. Results show that the participants' hits distribution was a function of number magnitude: shifted on the left for small and on the right for large numbers. This effect was maximised when numerical cues were sparse, randomly arranged and, critically, irrelevant to the task. Overall, this study provides novel evidence from visuo-spatial exploratory cancellation tasks for an attentional shift induced by number magnitude.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-557
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Cancellation task
  • Number processing
  • Visuo-spatial attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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