Visual object individuation occurs over object wholes, parts, and even holes

Katharine B. Porter, Veronica Mazza, Annie Garofalo, Alfonso Caramazza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Segmentation of the world into meaningful units has typically been described as object individuation, emphasizing the spatially disconnected quality that comes as a result of objecthood. This segmentation can occur rapidly, even in parallel for multiple objects. It remains unclear whether objecthood is a necessary requirement for parallel individuation, or whether target features in distinct locations, such as object parts, may also be individuated in parallel. In a series of six experiments, we used a rapid enumeration task to test whether subitizing, a phenomenon believed to result from parallel individuation, occurs over object parts. We found that subitizing and individuation occur over connected object parts as well as physically separate objects of varied shapes and sizes. We also observed subitizing when target items are indents, features intrinsic to the shape of the object, and when cues for occlusion were removed. The results of these studies suggest that parallel individuation is not bound to objecthood, and can occur over object parts existing in separate locations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1145-1162
Number of pages18
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Enumeration
  • Multiple object individuation
  • Object features
  • Object individuation
  • Subitizing
  • Visual segmentation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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