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ERIC Number: EJ1055998
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Jul
Pages: 8
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0278-7393
How Many Is a Zillion? Sources of Number Distortion
Rips, Lance J.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, v39 n4 p1257-1264 Jul 2013
When young children attempt to locate the positions of numerals on a number line, the positions are often logarithmically rather than linearly distributed. This finding has been taken as evidence that the children represent numbers on a mental number line that is logarithmically calibrated. This article reports a statistical simulation showing that log-like positioning is a consequence of 2 factors: the bounded nature of the number line and greater uncertainty about the meaning of the larger, less frequent number words. Two experiments likewise show that even college students produce log-like placements under the same 2 conditions. In Experiment 1, participants identified positions on a number line for a set that included both conventional and fictitious numbers (e.g., a zillion). In Experiment 2, participants did the same for conventional numbers that included some larger, unfamiliar items (e.g., a nonillion). Both experiments produced results better fit by logarithmic than by linear functions.
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Institute of Education Sciences (ED)
Authoring Institution: N/A
IES Funded: Yes
Grant or Contract Numbers: R305A080341