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10-08-2020 | Original Article

Reading direction and spatial effects in parity and arithmetic tasks

Psychological Research
Maham Azhar, Yalin Chen, Jamie I. D. Campbell
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This study investigated the relationship between numerical and spatial processing and reading direction, conducting conceptual replications of the Shaki et al. (Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 16(2): 328–331, 2009) parity task and the Mathieu et al. (Cognition 146: 229–239, 2016, Experiment 1) simple addition (e.g., 3 + 2) and subtraction (e.g., 3 − 2) task. Twenty-four left-to-right readers (LTR) and 24 right-to-left readers (RTL) were tested. The response time (RT) analysis of the parity task presented a robust spatial-numerical association of response codes (SNARC) effect (left-side response advantage for smaller numbers and right-side advantage for larger numbers) for LTR but not RTL readers. In the arithmetic task, the three problem elements (e.g., 3 + 4) were presented sequentially with the second operand displaced slightly to the left or right of fixation. RTL but not LTR readers presented a RT advantage for subtraction relative to addition with a right-shifted second operand compared to it being left-shifted. This is consistent with a spatial bias linked to native reading direction. For both reading-direction groups, effects of the left vs. right side manipulation in the arithmetic or parity task did not correspond to parallel effects in the other task. The results imply that the parity-based SNARC effects and side-related effects in cognitive arithmetic are not equivalent measures of space-related processes in cognitive number processing and likely reflect distinct mechanisms.

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