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Evidence for a shared mechanism used in multiple object tracking and subitizing.

It has been proposed that the mechanism that supports the ability to keep track of multiple moving objects also supports subitizing—the ability to quickly and accurately enumerate a small set of objects. To test this hypothesis, we investigated the effects on subitizing when human observers were required to perform a multiple object tracking task and an enumeration task simultaneously. In three experiments, participants (Exp. 1, N = 24; Exp. 2, N = 11; Exp. 3, N = 37) enumerated sets of zero to nine squares that were flashed while they tracked zero, two, or four moving discs. The results indicated that the number of items participants could subitize decreased by one for each item they tracked. No such pattern was seen when the enumeration task was paired with an equally difficult, but nonvisual, working memory task. These results suggest that a shared visual mechanism supports multiple object tracking and subitizing.



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