Cultural characteristics dissociate magnitude and ordinal information processing

Samuel Shaki, Wim Gevers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The SNARC effect reflects an association between the processing of quantity information and the side of response. A close relationship has been demonstrated between the direction of this association (SNARC effect) and reading direction habit. In the present study, the authors investigated the relationship between processing of magnitude and ordinal information processing. In the first experiment, bilingual Hebrew-English participants judged the ordinal position of letters in both the English (left-to-right) and the Hebrew (right-to-left) alphabet. The observed direction of the SNARC effect was congruent with the direction of reading in both languages. The second experiment explored the same task, but now the instructions emphasized the magnitude meaning of Hebrew letters (e.g., classify the letter as smaller or larger than 5). Contrary to Experiment 1, a regular left-to-right SNARC effect was observed. Finally, in Experiment 3, we demonstrate that this left-to-right-oriented SNARC effect is robustly observed in Hebrew participants if magnitude information is relevant to the task. Relevant interpretations regarding the observed dissociation between magnitude and ordinal processing are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)639-650
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2011


  • Numerical cognition
  • Ordinal processing
  • Reading direction
  • SNARC effect


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