The cultural number line: A review of cultural and linguistic influences on the development of number processing

Silke M. Göbel, Samuel Shaki, Martin H. Fischer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

173 Scopus citations

Abstract

Approximate processing of numerosities is a universal and preverbal skill, while exact number processing above 4 involves the use of culturally acquired number words and symbols. The authors first review core concepts of numerical cognition, including number representation in the brain and the influential view that numbers are associated with space along a "mental number line." Then, they discuss how cultural influences, such as reading direction, finger counting, and the transparency of the number word system, can influence the representation and processing of numbers. Spatial mapping of numbers emerges as a universal cognitive strategy. The authors trace the impact of cultural factors on the development of number skills and conclude that a cross-cultural perspective can reveal important constraints on numerical cognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-565
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Volume42
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2011

Keywords

  • SNARC effect
  • finger counting
  • numerical cognition
  • reading direction

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