Send to

Choose Destination
J Pers Soc Psychol. 2015 May;108(5):802-22. doi: 10.1037/pspp0000019. Epub 2014 Oct 6.

Multiple numeric competencies: When a number is not just a number.

Author information

Psychology Department, The Ohio State University.
Psychology Department, Goteborg University.


A growing body of evidence demonstrates the practical and theoretical importance of numeracy in evaluations and choices involving numeric information, an importance that goes beyond simple accuracy in performing mathematical computations. Numeric competency, however, may be multiply determined, but little research has examined potentially separable influences in evaluations and choice. In the present article, we describe 3 numeric competencies and begin to disentangle their effects. Participants (N = 111) completed a series of tasks in 4 1-hr sessions. We first examined relations between objective numeracy, subjective numeracy, and symbolic-number mapping abilities (thought to tap into internal representations of numeric magnitude and the mapping of symbolic numbers onto those representations) using a structural equation model. We then explored their dissociations in numeric and nonnumeric tasks. Higher vs. lower scores in objective numeracy were associated with explicit number operations, including number comparisons and calculations. Those with more vs. less exact mapping had better numeric memory (but not nonnumeric) and produced valuations that were closer to (but did not equal) a risky gamble's expected value, indicating a link with superior number intuitions. Finally, individuals lower vs. higher in subjective numeracy had more negative emotional reactions to numbers and were less motivated and/or confident in numeric tasks. It was less clear whether subjective numeracy might also relate to more general motivations and metacognitions involving nonnumeric information. We conclude that numeric competencies should be used in a more targeted fashion to understand their multiple mechanisms in people's evaluations, choices, and life outcomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for American Psychological Association
Loading ...
Support Center