Size matters: Non-numerical magnitude affects the spatial coding of response

Ping Ren, Michael Nicholls, Yuan-ye Ma, Lin Chen

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    70 Citations (Scopus)


    It is known that small and large numbers facilitate left/right respectively (the SNARC effect). Recently, it has been proposed that numerical magnitude is just one example of a range of quantities, which have a common cognitive/neural representation. To investigate this proposition, response congruency effects were explored for stimuli which differed according to their: (a) numerical size, (b) physical size, (c) luminance, (d) conceptual size and (e) auditory intensity. In a series of experiments, groups of undergraduate participants made two-alternative forced choice discriminations with their left or right hands. There were clear interactions between magnitude and responding hand whereby right hand responses were faster for stimuli with (a) large numbers, (b) large physical size, (c) low luminance, and (d) a reference to large objects. There was no congruency effect for the auditory stimuli. The data demonstrate that the response congruency effect observed for numbers also occurs for a variety of other non-numerical visual quantities. These results support models of general magnitude representation and suggest that the association between magnitude and the left/right sides of space may not be related to culture and/or directional reading habits.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere23553
    Number of pages6
    JournalPLoS One
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 11 Aug 2011


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