Time and numerosity estimation in peripersonal and extrapersonal space
Petrizzo I., Castaldi E., Anobile G., Bassanelli S., Arrighi R.
The representation of space, time and number is believed to rely on a common encoding system developed to support action guidance. While the ecological advantage of such a shared system is evident when objects are located within the region of space we can act on (known as peri-personal space), it is less obvious in the case of objects located beyond our arms’ reach. In the current study we investigated whether and to what extent the distance of the stimuli from the observer affects the perception of duration and numerosity. We first replicated Anelli et al.’s (2015) experiment by asking adult participants to perform a duration reproduction task with stimuli of different sizes displayed in the peri- or extra-personal space, and then applied the same paradigm to a non-symbolic numerosity estimation task. Results show that, independently of size, duration estimates were overestimated when visual stimuli were presented in the extra-personal space, replicating previous findings. A similar effect was also found for numerosity perception, however overestimation for far stimuli was much smaller in magnitude and was accounted by the difference in perceived size between stimuli presented in peripersonal or extrapersonal space. Overall, these results suggest that, while the processing of temporal information is robustly affected by the position of the stimuli in either the peri- or extra-personal space, numerosity perception is independent from stimulus distance. We speculate that, while time and numerosity may be encoded by a shared system in the peri-personal space (to optimize action execution), different and partially independent mechanisms may underlie the representation of time and numerosity in extra-personal space. Furthermore, these results suggest that investigating magnitude perception across spatial planes (where it is or is not possible to act) may unveil processing differences that would otherwise pass unnoticed.