Making SNAP Judgments: Rethinking the Spatial Representation of Number


Interactions between number and space, exemplified by the SNARC (Spatial-Numerical Association of Response Codes) effect, are often taken as evidence for a privileged spatial representation of number. Naturally, research on the spatial representation of number has typically focused on spatial tasks. But in order to make inferences about numerical cognition more generally, one must take care to tease apart spatial mental representation from spatial action. The present study asked participants to judge the relative magnitude of numbers, and to respond by producing sounds of different pitches. There was a significant interaction between pitch and number magnitude, analogous to the interaction between space and number: participants were faster to produce “high” pitches in response to “high” numbers. Moreover, the strength of this effect was unrelated to the strength of the traditional SNARC. We argue that these results undermine the privileged status of space as a representational substrate for number.

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