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Dev Psychol. 2008 Mar;44(2):544-60. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.44.2.544.

The development of automatic numerosity processing in preschoolers: evidence for numerosity-perceptual interference.

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  • 1Cognitive Development Laboratory, Psychology Department, Catholic University of Louvain, Louvainla-Neuve, Belgium.


Three experiments examined developmental changes in the automatic processing of numerosity and perceptual information using a nonsymbolic numerical Stroop paradigm. In Experiments 1 and 2 (E1 and E2), 4-, 5-, and 6-year-olds had to compare the numerosities or the total filled areas of collections of dots (E1) or bars (E2) varying along both dimensions. Experiment 3 replicated E2's results in 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds. Results demonstrated the existence of reciprocal influences between numerical and perceptual information beginning at age 3. Moreover, the irrelevant perceptual influences remained stable throughout development, whereas the sensitivity to irrelevant numerical cues tended to increase with age despite children's growing inhibition capacities. No significant correlation could be found between these developmental changes and the acquisition of counting knowledge.

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