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12-03-2020 | Original Article | Uitgave 3/2021

Psychological Research 3/2021

Large as being on top of the world and small as hitting the roof: a common magnitude representation for the comparison of emotions and numbers

Psychological Research > Uitgave 3/2021
Giulio Baldassi, Mauro Murgia, Valter Prpic, Sara Rigutti, Dražen Domijan, Tiziano Agostini, Carlo Fantoni
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s00426-020-01306-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Previous work on the direct speed–intensity association (SIA) on comparative judgement tasks involved spatially distributed responses over spatially distributed stimuli with high motivational significance like facial expressions of emotions. This raises the possibility that the inferred stimulus-driven regulation of lateralized motor reactivity described by SIA, which was against the one expected on the basis of a valence-specific lateral bias, was entirely due to attentional capture from motivational significance (beyond numerical cognition). In order to establish the relevance of numerical cognition on the regulation of attentional capture we ran two complementary experiments. These involved the same direct comparison task on stimulus pairs that were fully comparable in terms of their analog representation of intensity but with different representational domain and motivational significance: symbolic magnitudes with low motivational significance in experiment 1 vs. emotions with rather high motivational significance in experiment 2. The results reveal a general SIA and point to a general mechanism regulating comparative judgements. This is based on the way spatial attention is captured toward locations that contain the stimulus which is closest in term of relative intensity to the extremal values of the series, regardless from its representational domain being it symbolic or emotional.

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