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J Exp Child Psychol. 2004 Jan;87(1):57-84.

Magnitude comparison in preschoolers: what counts? Influence of perceptual variables.

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  • 1Unité de Neurosciences Cognitives, University of Louvain, 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.


This study examined numerosity comparison in 3-year-old children. Predictions derived from the analog numerical model and the object-file model were contrasted by testing the effects of size and ratio between numerosities to be compared. Different perceptual controls were also introduced to evaluate the hypothesis that comparison by preschoolers is based on correlated perceptual variables rather than on number per se. Finally, the relation between comparison performance and verbal counting knowledge was investigated. Results showed no evidence that preschoolers use an analog number magnitude or an object-file mechanism to compare numerosities. Rather, their inability to compare sets controlled for surface area suggests that they rely on perceptual cues. Furthermore, the development of numerosity-based representations seems to be related to some understanding of the cardinality concept.

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