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ERIC Number: EJ993748
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Nov
Pages: 7
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 47
ISSN: ISSN-0096-3445
Symbolic Estrangement: Evidence against a Strong Association between Numerical Symbols and the Quantities They Represent
Lyons, Ian M.; Ansari, Daniel; Beilock, Sian L.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, v141 n4 p635-641 Nov 2012
Are numerals estranged from a sense of the actual quantities they represent? We demonstrate that, irrespective of numerical size or distance, direct comparison of the relative quantities represented by symbolic and nonsymbolic formats leads to performance markedly worse than when comparing 2 nonsymbolic quantities (Experiment 1). Experiment 2 shows that this effect cannot be attributed to differences in perceptual processing streams. Experiment 3 shows that there is no additional cost of mixing 2 formats that are both symbolic; that is, the decrement in mixing formats is specific to mixing symbolic and nonsymbolic representations. In sum, we show that accessing a sense of how much a numerical symbol actually represents is a surprisingly difficult and nontrivial process. Our data are consistent with the view that numerical symbols operate primarily as an associative system in which relations between symbols come to overshadow those between symbols and their quantity referents. (Contains 2 figures and 1 table.)
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242. 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
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Illinois; New Hampshire