Research in cognitive psychology has focused mainly on the visual modality as the input interface for mental processes. We suggest that integrating studies from different modalities can aid in resolving theoretical controversies. We demonstrate this in the case of subitizing. Subitizing, the quick and accurate enumeration of small quantities, has been studied since the 19th century. Nevertheless, to date, the underlying mechanism is still debated. Two mechanisms have been suggested: a domain-general mechanism—attention, and a domain-specific mechanism—pattern recognition. Here, we review pivotal studies in the visual, tactile, and auditory modalities. The accumulative findings shed light on the theoretical debate. Accordingly, we suggest that subitizing is a subprocess of counting that occurs in the presence of facilitating factors, such as attentional resources and familiar patterns.
- FINST theory
- Pattern recognition
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)