TY - JOUR

T1 - Numerical comparisons of exponential expressions

T2 - The saliency of the base component

AU - Feder, Ami

AU - Lozin, Mariya

AU - Neumann, Nadav

AU - Pinhas, Michal

N1 - Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.

PY - 2024

Y1 - 2024

N2 - Exponential expressions represent series that grow at a fast pace such as carbon pollution and the spread of disease. Despite their importance, people tend to struggle with these expressions. In two experiments, participants chose the larger of two exponential expressions as quickly and accurately as possible. We manipulated the distance between the base/power components and their compatibility. In base-power compatible pairs, both the base and power of one expression were larger than the other (e.g., 23 vs. 34), while in base-power incompatible pairs, the base of one expression was larger than the base in the other expression but the relation between the power components of the two expressions was reversed (e.g., 32 vs. 24). Moreover, while in the first experiment the larger power always led to the larger result, in the second experiment we introduced base-result congruent pairs as well. Namely, the larger base led to the larger result. Our results showed a base-power compatibility effect, which was also larger for larger power distances (Experiments 1–2). Furthermore, participants processed the base-result congruent pairs faster and more accurately than the power-result congruent pairs (Experiment 2). These findings suggest that while both the base and power components are processed when comparing exponential expressions, the base is more salient. This exemplifies an incorrect processing of the syntax of exponential expressions, where the power typically has a larger mathematical contribution to the result of the expression.

AB - Exponential expressions represent series that grow at a fast pace such as carbon pollution and the spread of disease. Despite their importance, people tend to struggle with these expressions. In two experiments, participants chose the larger of two exponential expressions as quickly and accurately as possible. We manipulated the distance between the base/power components and their compatibility. In base-power compatible pairs, both the base and power of one expression were larger than the other (e.g., 23 vs. 34), while in base-power incompatible pairs, the base of one expression was larger than the base in the other expression but the relation between the power components of the two expressions was reversed (e.g., 32 vs. 24). Moreover, while in the first experiment the larger power always led to the larger result, in the second experiment we introduced base-result congruent pairs as well. Namely, the larger base led to the larger result. Our results showed a base-power compatibility effect, which was also larger for larger power distances (Experiments 1–2). Furthermore, participants processed the base-result congruent pairs faster and more accurately than the power-result congruent pairs (Experiment 2). These findings suggest that while both the base and power components are processed when comparing exponential expressions, the base is more salient. This exemplifies an incorrect processing of the syntax of exponential expressions, where the power typically has a larger mathematical contribution to the result of the expression.

KW - Base-power compatibility

KW - Exponential expressions

KW - Multi-digit numbers

KW - Numerical comparisons

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85203070326&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.3758/s13423-024-02571-8

DO - 10.3758/s13423-024-02571-8

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AN - SCOPUS:85203070326

SN - 1069-9384

JO - Psychonomic Bulletin and Review

JF - Psychonomic Bulletin and Review

ER -