SNARC for numerosities is modulated by comparative instruction (and resembles some non-numerical effects)

Katarzyna Patro, Samuel Shaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The spatial–numerical association of response codes (SNARC) effect is observed for both numerical (Arabic digits) and non-numerical stimuli (size, duration, height). However, in a context of comparative judgment, Arabic numbers are mapped onto space differently from sizes and heights: SNARC for Arabic digits is formed consistently in a certain cultural reading direction, whereas SNARC for sizes and heights is additionally modulated by comparative instruction (it reverses when participants choose larger magnitudes). In the present study, we test whether the spatial characteristic of magnitude processing revealed in a context of comparison is determined by a presence or lack of numerical content of the processed information, or it depends on specific directional experience (e.g., left-to-right ordering) associated with the processed magnitude format. We examine the SNARC effect with the pairwise comparison design, by using non-symbolic numerical stimuli (objects’ collections), for which the left-to-right spatial structure is not as exceedingly overlearned as for Arabic numbers. We asked participants from two reading cultures (left-to-right vs. mixed reading culture) to compare numerosities of two sets, choosing either a larger or smaller one. SNARC emerged in both groups. Additionally, it was modulated by comparative instruction: It appeared in a left-to-right direction when participants selected a smaller set, but it tended to reverse when participants selected a larger set. We conclude that spatial processing of numerosities is dissociated from spatial processing of Arabic numbers, at least in a context of comparative judgment. This dissociation could reflect differences in spatial ordering experience specific to a certain numerical input.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-137
Number of pages11
JournalCognitive Processing
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 May 2016


  • Number line
  • Numerosity
  • Spatial representation


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