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ERIC Number: EJ947401
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Dec
Pages: 9
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0278-2626
Are Historic Years Understood as Numbers or Events? An fMRI Study of Numbers with Semantic Associations
Gullick, Margaret M.; Temple, Elise
Brain and Cognition, v77 n3 p356-364 Dec 2011
While numbers generally cue processing of quantity or order, they can also contain semantic information, as in the case of historic years (e.g., "1492" calls forth associations of Columbus sailing the ocean blue). Whether these dates are processed as quantities or events may depend on the context in which they occur. We examined such "ambiguous number" processing in two different contexts using a paired-comparison task, recording both behavioral responses and brain activity. Participants were either asked to think of all items as numbers and to choose the larger number, or were told to treat the comparators as events and to choose the later event. Behaviorally, all events showed a normal distance effect, establishing that they may be understood and compared in an ordinal sequence. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) demonstrated significant differences between years when treated as numbers versus as events. Dates in both contexts shared activity in parietal lobe regions previously implicated in number processing. Dates as numbers showed no extra-numeric activity, while dates thought of as events evoked activity in temporal semantic processing and frontal semantic retrieval areas. These differences suggest that extra-numeric information may be easily accessed and incorporated during processing when supported by even a weak context. This work supports previous studies showing a dissociation between quantity and meaning, and illustrates the brain areas involved in these different aspects. (Contains 4 figures and 4 tables.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A