The role of spatial information in an approximate cross-modal number matching task
The approximate number system (ANS) is thought to be an innate cognitive system that allows humans to perceive numbers (>4) in a fuzzy manner. One assumption of the ANS is that numerosity is represented amodally due to a mechanism, which filters out nonnumerical information from stimulus material. However, some studies show that nonnumerical ... information (e.g., spatial parameters) influence the numerosity percept as well. Here, we investigated whether there is a cross-modal transfer of spatial information between the haptic and visual modality in an approximate cross-modal number matching task. We presented different arrays of dowels (haptic stimuli) to 50 undergraduates and asked them to compare haptically perceived numerosity to two visually presented dot arrays. Participants chose which visually presented array matched the numerosity of the haptic stimulus. The distractor varied in number and displayed a random pattern, whereas the matching (target) dot array was either spatially identical or spatially randomized (to the haptic stimulus). We hypothesized that if a “numerosity” percept is based solely on number, neither spatially identical nor spatial congruence between the haptic and the visual target arrays would affect the accuracy in the task. However, results show significant processing advantages for targets with spatially identical patterns and, furthermore, that spatial congruency between haptic source and visual target facilitates performance. Our results show that spatial information was extracted from the haptic stimuli and influenced participants’ responses, which challenges the assumption that numerosity is represented in a truly abstract manner by filtering out any other stimulus features.
Original publication in
Attention, perception, & psychophysics 85 (2023), 1253-1266