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16-07-2018 | Original Article | Uitgave 2/2020

Psychological Research 2/2020

Task instructions modulate unit–decade binding in two-digit number representation

Psychological Research > Uitgave 2/2020
Thomas J. Faulkenberry, Alexander Cruise, Samuel Shaki
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This paper was written in RMarkdown, with code for data analysis integrated into the manuscript text. The RMarkdown script and data are open and freely available at https://​git.​io/​vhU7z.


Previous studies have found decomposed processes, as well as holistic processes, in the representation of two-digit numbers. The present study investigated the influence of task instruction on such processes. Participants completed both magnitude and parity tasks in one of three instructional conditions, where they were asked to either consider two-digit numbers as a whole or to focus on one specific digit. In two experiments, we found that when participants were asked to consider the two digits as an integrated number, they always exhibited a unit–decade compatibility effect, indicating a failure of selective attention on the digit relevant to the given task. However, the mere presence of the neighboring digit is not a sufficient condition for the compatibility effect: when participants were explicitly asked to process a specific digit, their success/failure to selectively ignore the irrelevant digit depended on task requirements. Further, computer mouse tracking indicated that the locus of the compatibility effect was related to late response-related processing. The results signify the deep involvement of top-down processes in unit–decade binding for two-digit number representation.

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