Shaping the way from the unknown to the known: The role of convex hull shape in numerical comparisons

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2 Scopus citations


Various studies have shown that numerical processing is modulated by non-numerical physical properties. One such physical property is the convex hull – the smallest convex polygon surrounding all items in an array. The convex hull is usually discussed only in terms of its area. However, our group has shown that observers use the convex hull shape, as defined according to the number of vertices of the convex hull, to make numerical estimations (Katzin, Katzin, Rosén, Henik, & Salti, 2020). Yet, it is still unknown if and how the convex hull shape affects comparison tasks, and how it interacts with its counterpart, convex hull area. Here we re-examine the data collected by Katzin, Salti, and Henik (2019). Using image processing, we extracted the information on the convex hull shape and showed that the shape affects latency and accuracy of numerical comparisons. We found that both the convex hull shape and other physical properties (i.e., convex hull area, average diameter, density, total circumference, and total surface area) have distinct effects on performance. Finally, the convex hull shape effect was found in counting and estimation ranges, however its effect decreased with numerosities above the counting range. Our results indicate that the interplay between convex hull shape and other physical properties, including convex hull area and numerosity, plays an important role in numerical decisions. We suggest that the convex hull shape should be controlled for when designing non-symbolic numerical tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104893
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021


  • Convex hull
  • Non-symbolic arrays
  • Numerical cognition
  • Physical properties
  • Shape

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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