abstract Jonkoo Park

Jonkoo Park (University of Massachusetts at Amherst, USA)

The neural basis of numerical intuition

Humans are endowed with an intuitive sense of number that allows us to roughly perceive and estimate numerosity (i.e., the cardinal value of a set of items) without relying on language. Understanding the cognitive and neural mechanisms that underlie our numerical intuition has recently gained a huge attention for both theoretical and practical reasons. Yet, one central controversy in current research is whether our numerical intuition is indeed based on number or not. This topic is under hot debate because it has been unknown whether the mind and brain is capable of representing number itself or is only capable of encoding number based on other perceptual cues that are necessarily confounded with number, such as the total surface area or density of a dot array. In this talk, I will introduce a novel analytic method, which allows an assessment of the unique contributions of number and other visual properties. I will then describe the application of this approach to a series of passive-viewing event-related-potential studies in human adults that investigate the temporal dynamics of neural sensitivity to number and to other visual properties. The results demonstrate that the human brain is uniquely sensitive to number from very early in the visual stream, providing strong evidence for the existence of a neural mechanism for rapidly and directly extracting numerosity information in the human visual pathway.