, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 163-170

A probabilistic model for the discrimination of visual number


This paper proposes a probabilistic model of how humans identify the number of dots within a briefly presented visual display. The model is an application of Thurstone’s law of comparative judgment, and it is assumed that the internal representation of numerosity consists of log-spaced random variables. The discrimination between any two different numerosities is consequently described as a function of max/rain, where max and rain are the larger and smaller numbers, respectively. The model was tested in two experiments in which the Weber fraction for numerosity, corresponding with the critical ratio of max and min, was found to have the value of 162. It was concluded that the classical span of subitizing numerosity is but a special case of the span of discrimination.

Portions of this paper benefited from discussions with Prof. Dr. E. Eijkman.
This research was supported by a grant from The Netherlands Organization for the Advancement of Pure Research (Zuiver Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek).