Visual stimulus parameters seriously compromise the measurement of approximate number system acuity and comparative effects between adults and children

Denes Szucs, Alison Nobes, Amy Devine, Florence Gabriel, Titia Gebuis

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    93 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    It has been suggested that a simple non-symbolic magnitude comparison task is sufficient to measure the acuity of a putative Approximate Number System (ANS). A proposed measure of the ANS, the so-called "internal Weber fraction" (w), would provide a clear measure of ANS acuity. However, ANS studies have never presented adequate evidence that visual stimulus parameters did not compromise measurements of w to such extent that w is actually driven by visual instead of numerical processes. We therefore investigated this question by testing non-symbolic magnitude discrimination in seven-year-old children and adults. We manipulated/controlled visual parameters in a more stringent manner than usual. As a consequence of these controls, in some trials numerical cues correlated positively with number while in others they correlated negatively with number. This congruency effect strongly correlated with w, which means that congruency effects were probably driving effects in w. Consequently, in both adults and children congruency had a major impact on the fit of the model underlying the computation of w. Furthermore, children showed larger congruency effects than adults. This suggests that ANS tasks are seriously compromised by the visual stimulus parameters, which cannot be controlled. Hence, they are not pure measures of the ANS and some putative w or ratio effect differences between children and adults in previous ANS studies may be due to the differential influence of the visual stimulus parameters in children and adults. In addition, because the resolution of congruency effects relies on inhibitory (interference suppression) function, some previous ANS findings were probably influenced by the developmental state of inhibitory processes especially when comparing children with developmental dyscalculia and typically developing children.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberArticle 444
    Pages (from-to)Article: 444
    Number of pages12
    JournalFrontiers in Psychology
    Volume4
    Issue numberJuly
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

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