Expanding on the mental number line: Zero is perceived as the "smallest"

Michal Pinhas, Joseph Tzelgov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


The representation of 0 in healthy adults was studied with the physical comparison task. Automatic processing of numbers, as indicated by the size congruity effect, was used for detecting the basic numerical representations stored in long-term memory. The size congruity effect usually increases with numerical distance between the physically compared numbers. This increase was attenuated for comparisons to 0 or 1 (but not to 2) when they were perceived as the smallest number in the set. Furthermore, the size congruity effect was enlarged in these cases. These results indicate an end effect in automatic processing of numbers and suggest that 0, or 1 in the absence of 0, is perceived as the smallest entity on the mental number line. The implications of these findings are discussed with regard to models of number representation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1187-1205
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Automaticity
  • Long-term memory
  • Mental number line
  • Negative numbers
  • Size congruity effect
  • Zero


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