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Cognition. 1992 Aug;44(1-2):75-106.

Cognitive arithmetic: a review of data and theory.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Cleveland State University, OH 44115.


The area of cognitive arithmetic is concerned with the mental representation of number and arithmetic, and the processes and procedures that access and use this knowledge. In this article, I provide a tutorial review of the area, first discussing the four basic empirical effects that characterize the evidence on cognitive arithmetic: the effects of problem size or difficulty, errors, relatedness, and strategies of processing. I then review three current models of simple arithmetic processing and the empirical reports that support or challenge their explanations. The third section of the review discusses the relationship between basic fact retrieval and a rule-based component or system, and considers current evidence and proposals on the overall architecture of the cognitive arithmetic system. The review concludes with a final set of speculations about the all-pervasive problem difficulty effect, still a central puzzle in the field.

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