Numerical representation: abstract or nonabstract?
Cohen Kadosh R.
Until now it has been a commonly held view that numbers are represented abstractly in the human brain. However, a recent imaging study challenged the existence of an abstract representation at least of digits and number words, at the brain level, and argued that previous studies and paradigms were not sensitive enough to detect deviations from abstract representation at the behavioural level. The current study addressed this issue with an analysis of distance and sequential effects in magnitude classification. Previous studies that used this paradigm did not find deviation from abstract representation for digits and number words (e.g., Dehaene, 1996; Schwarz & Ischebeck, 2000). However, in the current study a short stimulus-response interval was used, which reduced subjective expectancy and increased automatic processing. The current results showed deviation from abstract representation in both reaction time and accuracy and therefore support the idea that nonabstract representations of numbers do exist.