Dissociating between cardinal and ordinal and between the value and size magnitudes of coins

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In mathematics, the ordinal (relative) magnitude of a numerical object conveys a separate meaning from its cardinal (absolute) magnitude, whereas its physical size bears no inherent relationship to its magnitude. In numerical cognition, the ordinal-cardinal distinction has been scarcely addressed, whereas the size-magnitude distinction has been studied extensively, with the surprising demonstration of an interaction between semantic magnitude and physical size (Besner & Coltheart, 1979). The present work used coins to study the intricate relations between these meanings. In two experiments, Israeli observers (Experiment 1) and American observers (Experiment 2) performed numerical and physical comparative judgments of coins. Consensual markers of magnitude activation (e.g., the size congruity effect and the distance effect) were obtained. The results of the two experiments converged on the same conclusions. Comparisons of value were governed by ordinal magnitude. Magnitude interfered with comparisons of size, but size did not affect value. The results provided a set of clear dissociations between cardinal and ordinal magnitude and between value and size of coins. They highlight the important role played by ordinal information in magnitude processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)889-894
Number of pages6
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


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