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Psychon Bull Rev. 2017 Apr;24(2):352-369. doi: 10.3758/s13423-016-1126-2.

Number-space associations without language: Evidence from preverbal human infants and non-human animal species.

Author information

1
Department of General Psychology, University of Padova, Via Venezia, 8, Padova, Italy.
2
Université Paris Descartes, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Paris, France. dehevialola@gmail.com.
3
CNRS UMR 8242, Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, 45 rue des Saints-Pères, 75006, Paris, France. dehevialola@gmail.com.

Abstract

It is well known that humans describe and think of numbers as being represented in a spatial configuration, known as the 'mental number line'. The orientation of this representation appears to depend on the direction of writing and reading habits present in a given culture (e.g., left-to-right oriented in Western cultures), which makes this factor an ideal candidate to account for the origins of the spatial representation of numbers. However, a growing number of studies have demonstrated that non-verbal subjects (preverbal infants and non-human animals) spontaneously associate numbers and space. In this review, we discuss evidence showing that pre-verbal infants and non-human animals associate small numerical magnitudes with short spatial extents and left-sided space, and large numerical magnitudes with long spatial extents and right-sided space. Together this evidence supports the idea that a more biologically oriented view can account for the origins of the 'mental number line'. In this paper, we discuss this alternative view and elaborate on how culture can shape a core, fundamental, number-space association.

KEYWORDS:

Infants; Mental number line; Non-human animals; Number; Space-number association

PMID:
27488555
DOI:
10.3758/s13423-016-1126-2
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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