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Journal Article

Direct evidence for linguistic influences in two-digit number processing


Maier,  Carolin Annette
Neuro-Cognitive Plasticity Laboratory, Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien, Tübingen, Germany;
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Bahnmueller, J., Maier, C. A., Göbel, S. M., & Moeller, K. (2019). Direct evidence for linguistic influences in two-digit number processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 45(6), 1142-1150. doi:10.1037/xlm0000642.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-AC0C-F
Language-specific differences in number words influence number processing even in nonverbal numerical tasks. For instance, the unit-decade compatibility effect in two-digit number magnitude comparison (compatible number pairs [42_57: 4 < 5 and 2 < 7] are responded to faster than incompatible pairs [47_62: 4 < 6 but 7 > 2]) was shown to be influenced by the inversion of number words (e.g., in German the number word for 42 is zweiundvierzig [literally: two-and-forty]). In two studies, we used articulatory suppression to investigate whether previously observed cross-linguistic differences in two-digit number processing are indeed driven by differences in number word formation. In a two-digit number comparison task, German- and English-speaking participants had to identify the larger of two numbers presented in Arabic digits. In Study 1, participants performed the same task twice, with and without articulatory suppression. In Study 2, the percentage of within-decade filler items (36_39) was manipulated additionally. As expected, in both studies between-groups differences in the compatibility effect disappeared under articulatory suppression irrespective of the percentage of fillers included. Furthermore, paralleling results of previous studies including 33% or less filler items, we found that the compatibility effect was larger in German compared with English speakers in the 20% filler condition. However, this pattern was reversed in the 50% filler condition in both studies. Thus, results provide first direct evidence for influences of verbal number word formation on symbolic number processing. Moreover, these new findings suggest that linguistic influences and those of cognitive control processes associated with characteristics of the stimulus set interact in symbolic number processing.