Many common tasks require us to individuate in parallel two or more objects out of a complex scene. Although the mechanisms underlying our abilities to count the number of items, remember the visual properties of objects and to make saccadic eye movements towards targets have been studied separately, each of these tasks require selection of individual objects and shows a capacity limit. Here we show that a common factor-salience-determines the capacity limit in the various tasks. We manipulated bottom-up salience (visual contrast) and top-down salience (task relevance) in enumeration and visual memory tasks. As one item became increasingly salient, the subitizing range was reduced and memory performance for all other less-salient items was decreased. Overall, the pattern of results suggests that our abilities to enumerate and remember small groups of stimuli are grounded in an attentional priority or salience map which represents the location of important items.
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