Psychological Research

, Volume 64, Issue 2, pp 81–92

Subitizing and its subprocesses


  • Karl F. Wender
    • Fachbereich I, University of Trier, 54286 Trier, Germany e-mail:
  • Rainer Rothkegel
    • Max-Planck-Institut für Biologische Kybernetik, Tübingen, Germany

DOI: 10.1007/s004260000021

Cite this article as:
Wender, K. & Rothkegel, R. Psychological Research Psychologische Forschung (2000) 64: 81. doi:10.1007/s004260000021


 When people are presented with small sets of elements such as dots they can very easily determine their number. This ability has been called subitizing. The present paper reports results from four experiments. The discussion focuses on the question whether one or two psychological processes have to be assumed for this task of subitizing. Taken together our results support the two-process theories. In particular, a distinction between a process of separation and a process of enumeration is suggested. Experiments 3 and 4 support the canonical pattern hypothesis. Canonical patterns are processed substantially faster than noncanonical patterns. Furthermore, if a complex pattern can be broken down into small canonical patterns, then participants follow a partition and add strategy.

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2000