Seminar Series

Spatial Representations Activated Through Number Processing

Like other complex skills, number processing involves a range of cognitive subcomponents that require careful coordination. Recent work has shown that this coordination may in part rely on a spatial representation. For example, parity judgments for small digits (1, 2) are faster with the left hand, while parity judgments for larger digits (8, 9) are faster with the right hand. This reaction time effect suggests a Spatial Numerical Association of Response Codes (SNARC effect; Dehaene et al. [1993], JEP-General, 122, 371-396). In this presentation I report that the SNARC effect generalizes to negative numbers, to movement times, to spatial endpoints of movements, and even to visual attention allocation. Thus, numerical cognition induces quite general spatial biases. The implications of this work for theories of numerical cognition and for the practice of mental arithmetic can be discussed.