The componential processing of fractions in adults and children: effects of stimuli variability and contextual interference

Li Zhang, Qiaochu Fang, Florence Gabriel, Denes Szucs

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Recent studies have indicated that people have a strong tendency to compare fractions based on constituent numerators or denominators. This is called componential processing. This study explored whether componential processing was preferred in tasks involving high stimuli variability and high contextual interference, when fractions could be compared based either on the holistic values of fractions or on their denominators. Here, stimuli variability referred to the fact that fractions were not monotonous but diversiform. Contextual interference referred to the fact that the processing of fractions was interfered by other stimuli. To our ends, three tasks were used. In Task 1, participants compared a standard fraction 1/5 to unit fractions. This task was used as a low stimuli variability and low contextual interference task. In Task 2 stimuli variability was increased by mixing unit and non-unit fractions. In Task 3, high contextual interference was created by incorporating decimals into fractions. The RT results showed that the processing patterns of fractions were very similar for adults and children. In task 1 and task 3, only componential processing was utilzied. In contrast, both holistic processing and componential processing were utilized in task 2. These results suggest that, if individuals are presented with the opportunity to perform componential processing, both adults and children will tend to do so, even if they are faced with high variability of fractions or high contextual interference.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberArticle 981
    Pages (from-to)Article: 981
    Number of pages8
    JournalFrontiers in Psychology
    Issue numberAUG
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    • Componential processing
    • Contextual interference
    • Fractions
    • Holistic processing
    • The variability of stimuli


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