When more is less: Extraction of summary statistics benefits from larger sets

Nicolas Robitaille*, Irina M. Harris

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    79 Citations (Scopus)


    Despite several processing limitations that have been identified in the visual system, research shows that statistical information about a set of objects could be perceived as accurately as the information about a single object. It has been suggested that extraction of summary statistics represents a different mode of visual processing, which employs a parallel mechanism free of capacity limitations. Here, we demonstrate, using reaction time measures, that increasing the number of stimuli in the set results in faster reaction times and better accuracy for estimating the mean tendency of a set. These results provide clear evidence that extraction of summary statistics relies on a distributed attention mode that operates across the whole display at once and that this process benefits from larger samples across which the summary statistics are calculated.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number18
    Pages (from-to)1-8
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Vision
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


    • Detection/discrimination
    • Object recognition
    • Visual cognition


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