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The effects of training on tactile enumeration


Subitizing is a fast and accurate process of enumerating small quantities. Whether subitizing carried out in the tactile modality is under debate. We previously found a moderately increasing RT slope from one to four stimuli and a large decrease in RT for five stimuli when using one hand. Yet, a high error rate was observed, making it difficult to determine if the RT pattern found was indeed subitizing. To increase accuracy, we carried out training of the tactile enumeration task using one hand for 6 days. We compared performance in the trained and additional non-trained tasks between two groups—the 6-day training group (6DT) and the non-trained controls (C)—after three periods (1 week, 1 and 6 months after the training of the 6DT group ended). Results showed an increase in accuracy rates for both groups but a decrease in RT for the 6DT group only for the trained task. This RT improvement was present even after 6 months. Importantly, the RT slope of one-hand enumeration did not change after training, showing a moderately increased slope up to four stimuli and a decrease for five stimuli. Our study shows the training long-term effect on tactile enumeration and emphasizes the embodiment of finger counting on enumeration. Two possible enumeration processes are discussed—accelerated counting and subitizing—both based on spatial cues and pattern recognition of familiarized finger-counting patterns.

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  1. Note that enumerating five stimuli using one hand was faster and more accurate than four stimuli. Yet, it was not included within the suggested subitizing range although it fits the definition of subitizing. It was addressed as an "embodied end effect" because of methodological constraints; there was only one variation of stimulating five fingertips so that the efficient response could have been a result of more repetitions in comparison to the other numerosities. Moreover, the enumeration process was bounded by the end of the range effect (five stimuli out of five) and end of the input surface (whole hand).

  2. This task was conducted only once, in the retest that took place one month after training.

  3. Note that this task is different from the task used by Cohen and Henik (2016), where only stimuli that were presented to both hands were used.

  4. We had nine females but one female participant dropped out during the first retest and her data was excluded from the analysis.

  5. Numerosity 1 was excluded from the analysis because it was only applied on one hand.

  6. Due to the high accuracy rate and low variance, we could not conduct accuracy rate analysis in this task and in the numbers-reading task.

  7. Data from two participants in the C group and one participant in the 6DT group were not included in the analysis. Their responses were not recorded due to technical problems that occurred.

  8. Note that this task was conducted only once (in the retest 1m after training) so it did not have test results to compare it with.


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This work was conducted as part of the research in the Center for the Study of the Neurocognitive Basis of Numerical Cognition, supported by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant 1799/12) in the framework of their Centers of Excellence. We wish to thank the leading research assistants (in alphabetical order): Shachar Hochman, Michal Krimolowsky, Yaara Mannes, Adi Soria, Sol Yaakobovich, and Meital Zvi. Special thanks are given to Desiree Meloul for her tremendous help along the way.

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Correspondence to Zahira Z. Cohen.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Cohen, Z.Z., Aisenberg, D. & Henik, A. The effects of training on tactile enumeration. Psychological Research 82, 468–487 (2018).

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