Number and continuous magnitude processing depends on task goals and numerosity ratio

Tali Leibovich-Raveh, Itamar Stein, Avishai Henik, Moti Salti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A large body of evidence shows that when comparing non-symbolic numerosities, performance is influenced by irrelevant continuous magnitudes, such as total surface area, density, etc. In the current work, we ask whether the weights given to numerosity and continuous magnitudes are modulated by top-down and bottom-up factors. With that aim in mind, we asked adult participants to compare two groups of dots. To manipulate task demands, participants reported after every trial either (1) how accurate their response was (emphasizing accuracy) or (2) how fast their response was (emphasizing speed). To manipulate bottom-up factors, the stimuli were presented for 50 ms, 100 ms or 200 ms. Our results revealed (a) that the weights given to numerosity and continuous magnitude ratios were affected by the interaction of top-down and bottom-up manipulations and (b) that under some conditions, using numerosity ratio can reduce efficiency. Accordingly, we suggest that processing magnitudes is not rigid and static but a flexible and adaptive process that allows us to deal with the ever-changing demands of the environment. We also argue that there is not just one answer to the question ‘what do we process when we process magnitudes?’, and future studies should take this flexibility under consideration. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)
Original languageEnglish
Article number19
JournalJournal of cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - 23 Mar 2018


  • Continuous magnitudes
  • Environment
  • Goals
  • Non-symbolic numerosity comparison task
  • Number Comprehension
  • Numerosities
  • Numerosity Perception
  • Sense of magnitudes
  • Sense of number

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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