Can auditory objects be subitized?

Roberts, K.L. ORCID: 0000-0002-8735-2249, Doherty, N.J., Maylor, E.A. and Watson, D.G., 2019. Can auditory objects be subitized? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 45 (1), pp. 1-15. ISSN 0096-1523

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In vision, humans have the ability to mentally 'tag' approximately four objects, allowing us to monitor, attend, and interact with them. As a consequence, we can rapidly and accurately enumerate up to four objects – a process known as subitizing. Here, we investigate whether a similar ability exists for tagging auditory stimuli and find that only two or three auditory stimuli can be enumerated with high accuracy. We assess whether this high accuracy indicates the existence of an auditory subitizing mechanism, and if it is influenced by factors known to influence visual subitizing. Based on accuracy, Experiments 1 and 2 reveal a potential auditory subitizing mechanism only when stimuli are spatially separated, as is the case for visual subitizing. Experiment 3 failed to show any evidence of auditory subitizing when objects were separated in time, rather than space. All three experiments provide only limited evidence for an age-related decline in auditory enumeration of small numbers of objects. This suggests that poor auditory tagging does not contribute significantly to older adults’ difficulties in multi-talker conversations. We hypothesize that although auditory subitizing might occur, it is restricted to approximately two spatially-separated objects due to the difficulty of parsing the auditory scene into its constituent parts.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Creators: Roberts, K.L., Doherty, N.J., Maylor, E.A. and Watson, D.G.
Publisher: American Psychological Association
Date: 8 October 2019
Volume: 45
Number: 1
ISSN: 0096-1523
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 29 Jun 2018 14:21
Last Modified: 11 Sep 2019 15:18

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