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Decade breaks in the mental number line? Putting tens and units back into different bins

By Hans-Christoph Nuerk, Ulrich W. Weger and K. Willmes


Most models of number recognition agree that among other number representations there is a central semantic magnitude representation which may be conceptualized as a logarithmically compressed mental number line. Whether or not this number line is decomposed into different representations for tens and units is, however, controversial. We investigated this issue in German participants in a magnitude comparison (selection) task in which the larger of two visually presented Arabic two-digit numbers had to be selected. Most importantly, we varied unit-decade-compatibility: a number pair was defined as compatible if the decade magnitude comparison and the unit magnitude comparison of the two numbers would lead to the same response (e.g. 52 and 67) and as incompatible if this was not the case (e.g. 47 and 62). While controlling for overall numerical distance, size and other variables, we consistently found compatibility effects. A control experiment showed that this compatibility effect was not due to perceptual presentation characteristics. We conclude that the idea of one single number line representation that does not additionally assume different magnitude representations for tens and units is not sufficient to account for the data. Finally, we discuss why decade effects were not found in other experimental settings

Topics: BF
Publisher: Elsevier Science
Year: 2001
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