Sequential or parallel decomposed processing of two-digit numbers? Evidence from eye-tracking

Korbinian Moeller, Martin H. Fischer, Hans-Christoph Nuerk, Klaus Willmes

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    59 Citations (Scopus)


    While reaction time data have shown that decomposed processing of two-digit numbers occurs, there is little evidence about how decomposed processing functions. Poltrock and Schwartz (1984) argued that multi-digit numbers are compared in a sequential digit-by-digit fashion starting at the leftmost digit pair. In contrast, Nuerk and Willmes, (2005) favoured parallel processing of the digits constituting it number. These models (i.e., Sequential decomposition, parallel decomposition) make different predictions regarding the fixation pattern in a two-digit number magnitude comparison task and can therefore be differentiated by eye fixation data. We tested these models by evaluating participants' eye fixation behaviour while selecting the larger of two numbers. The stimulus set consisted of within decade comparisons (e.g., 53_57) and between-decade comparisons (e.g., 42_57). The between decade Comparisons were further divided into compatible and Incompatible trials, (cf. Nuerk, Weger, & Willmes, 2001) and trials with different decade and unit distances. The observed fixation Pattern implies that the Comparison of two-digit numbers is not executed by sequentially comparing decade and unit digits its Proposed by Poltrock and Schwartz (1984) but rather in a decomposed but parallel fashion. Moreover, the present fixation data provide first evidence that digit processing Ill multi-digit numbers is not it Pure bottom-Lip effect, but is also influenced by top-down factors. Finally implications for multi-digit number processing beyond the range of two-digit numbers are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)323-334
    Number of pages12
    JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009


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