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Milica Milosavljevic, Erik Madsen, Christof Koch, Antonio Rangel; Fast saccades toward numbers: Simple number comparisons can be made in as little as 230 ms. Journal of Vision 2011;11(4):4. doi: 10.1167/11.4.4.
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Visual psychophysicists have recently developed tools to measure the maximal speed at which the brain can accurately carry out different types of computations (H. Kirchner & S. J. Thorpe, 2006). We use this methodology to measure the maximal speed with which individuals can make magnitude comparisons between two single-digit numbers. We find that individuals make such comparisons with high accuracy in 306 ms on average and are able to perform above chance in as little as 230 ms. We also find that maximal speeds are similar for “larger than” and “smaller than” number comparisons and in a control task that simply requires subjects to identify the number in a number–letter pair. The results suggest that the brain contains dedicated processes involved in implementing basic number comparisons that can be deployed in parallel with processes involved in low-level visual processing.
*Denotes that subject completed the speed condition first.
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