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21 January 2021
Article (Scientific journals)
Spatial biases in mental arithmetic are independent of reading/writing habits: Evidence from French and Arabic speakers.
Masson, Nicolas; Andres, Michael; Alsamour, Marie et al.
2020In Cognition, 200, p. 104262
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Keywords :
Mental arithmetic; Nature-nurture; Space-number association; Temporal order judgement
Abstract :
[en] The representation of numbers in human adults is linked to space. In Western cultures, small and large numbers are associated respectively with the left and right sides of space. An influential framework attributes the emergence of these spatial-numerical associations (SNAs) to cultural factors such as the direction of reading and writing, because SNAs were found to be reduced or inverted in right-to-left readers/writers (e.g., Arabic, Farsi, or Hebrew speakers). However, recent cross-cultural and animal studies cast doubt on the determining role of reading and writing directions on SNAs. In this study, we assessed this role in mental arithmetic, which requires explicit number manipulations and has revealed robust leftward or rightward biases in Western participants. We used a temporal order judgement task in French and Arabic speakers, two languages that have opposite reading/writing directions. Participants had to solve subtraction and addition problems presented auditorily while at the same time determining which of a left or right visual target appeared first on a screen. The results showed that the right target was favoured more often when solving additions than when solving subtractions both in the French- (n = 31) and Arabic-speaking (n = 25) groups. This was true even in Arabic-speaking participants whose preference for ordering of various series of numerical and non-numerical stimuli went from right to left (n = 10). These results indicate that SNAs in mental arithmetic cannot be explained by the direction of reading/writing habits and call for a reconsideration of current models to acknowledge the pervasive role of biological factors in SNAs in adults.
Disciplines :
Neurosciences & behavior
Author, co-author :
Masson, Nicolas ;  University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences (FHSE) > Department of Behavioural and Cognitive Sciences (DBCS)
Andres, Michael
Alsamour, Marie
Bollen, Zoé
Pesenti, Mauro
External co-authors :
Language :
Title :
Spatial biases in mental arithmetic are independent of reading/writing habits: Evidence from French and Arabic speakers.
Publication date :
Journal title :
Publisher :
Elsevier, Netherlands
Volume :
Pages :
Peer reviewed :
Peer Reviewed verified by ORBi
Commentary :
Copyright © 2020 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


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