Numerosity estimation in visual stimuli in the absence of luminance-based cues

Peter Kramer, Maria Grazia Di Bono, Marco Zorzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Numerosity estimation is a basic preverbal ability that humans share with many animal species and that is believed to be foundational of numeracy skills. It is notoriously difficult, however, to establish whether numerosity estimation is based on numerosity itself, or on one or more non-numerical cues like-in visual stimuli-spatial extent and density. Frequently, different non-numerical cues are held constant on different trials. This strategy, however, still allows numerosity estimation to be based on a combination of non-numerical cues rather than on any particular one by itself. Methodology/Principal Findings: Here we introduce a novel method, based on second-order (contrast-based) visual motion, to create stimuli that exclude all first-order (luminance-based) cues to numerosity. We show that numerosities can be estimated almost as well in second-order motion as in first-order motion. Conclusions/Significance: The results show that numerosity estimation need not be based on first-order spatial filtering, first-order density perception, or any other processing of luminance-based cues to numerosity. Our method can be used as an effective tool to control non-numerical variables in studies of numerosity estimation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere17378
JournalPLoS One
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Numerosity estimation in visual stimuli in the absence of luminance-based cues'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this