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

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

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    123 Citations (Scopus)


    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
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - May 2011

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