26-12-2015 | Original Article
Evidence for distinct magnitude systems for symbolic and non-symbolic number
Gepubliceerd in: Psychological Research | Uitgave 1/2017Log in om toegang te krijgen
Cognitive models of magnitude representation are mostly based on the results of studies that use a magnitude comparison task. These studies show similar distance or ratio effects in symbolic (Arabic numerals) and non-symbolic (dot arrays) variants of the comparison task, suggesting a common abstract magnitude representation system for processing both symbolic and non-symbolic numerosities. Recently, however, it has been questioned whether the comparison task really indexes a magnitude representation. Alternatively, it has been hypothesized that there might be different representations of magnitude: an exact representation for symbolic magnitudes and an approximate representation for non-symbolic numerosities. To address the question whether distinct magnitude systems exist, we used an audio–visual matching paradigm in two experiments to explore the relationship between symbolic and non-symbolic magnitude processing. In Experiment 1, participants had to match visually and auditory presented numerical stimuli in different formats (digits, number words, dot arrays, tone sequences). In Experiment 2, they were instructed only to match the stimuli after processing the magnitude first. The data of our experiments show different results for non-symbolic and symbolic number and are difficult to reconcile with the existence of one abstract magnitude representation. Rather, they suggest the existence of two different systems for processing magnitude, i.e., an exact symbolic system next to an approximate non-symbolic system.