Undergraduate Honors Theses

Date of Award

4-2017

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Daniel Ansari

Second Advisor

Tali Leibovich

Abstract

Does the automatic activation of number influence children’s decision-making on physical size judgments? Previous work dealing with how children process symbolic and non-symbolic numbers typically involves making direct judgments about numerical values. In this study, instead of asking for judgments about numerical magnitude, we assessed the automatic activation of number by asking children to make physical size judgments. This will allow us to further learn how children use their understanding of numbers to help them make decisions that do not directly involve numbers. In addition to this, by looking at how the processing of symbolic and non-symbolic numbers relate, we will get a closer look at when children acquire an understanding of both symbolic and non-symbolic numbers. In the symbolic task, children were asked to indicate which number was physically larger; and in the non-symbolic task, children were asked to indicate which dot array took up a larger area. Through these tasks we hope to address two questions. First, if the automatic activation of numbers will facilitate or interfere with the required size judgments; and second, the extent to which responses on the symbolic and non-symbolic tasks relate. Fifty-two children between the ages of 6 and 9 completed the study on a laptop computer. Response time and accuracy were recorded for each participant on each task. Results indicate that in the non-symbolic task, the automatic activation of number facilitates and interferes with size judgments, but in the symbolic task, automatic activation of number only interferes with size judgments. To assess the relationship between the two tasks, we correlated interference and facilitation effects; however, no significant correlations were found. The findings from this study will help further our understanding of how children learn numbers, and the mechanisms involved in number processing.

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