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Cognition. 2010 Feb;114(2):293-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2009.09.013. Epub 2009 Nov 5.

Mathematics anxiety affects counting but not subitizing during visual enumeration.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.


Individuals with mathematics anxiety have been found to differ from their non-anxious peers on measures of higher-level mathematical processes, but not simple arithmetic. The current paper examines differences between mathematics anxious and non-mathematics anxious individuals in more basic numerical processing using a visual enumeration task. This task allows for the assessment of two systems of basic number processing: subitizing and counting. Mathematics anxious individuals, relative to non-mathematics anxious individuals, showed a deficit in the counting but not in the subitizing range. Furthermore, working memory was found to mediate this group difference. These findings demonstrate that the problems associated with mathematics anxiety exist at a level more basic than would be predicted from the extant literature.

Copyright 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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