Spatial Processes in Linear Ordering

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Memory performance in linear order reasoning tasks (A > B, B > C, C > D, etc.) shows quicker, and more accurate responses to queries on wider (AD) than narrower (AB) pairs on a hypothetical linear mental model (A – B – C – D). While indicative of an analogue representation, research so far did not provide positive evidence for spatial processes in the construction of such models. In a series of 7 experiments we report such evidence. Participants respond quicker when the dominant element in a pair is presented on the left (or top) rather than on the right (or bottom). The left-anchoring tendency reverses in a sample with Farsi background (reading/writing from right to left). Alternative explanations and confounds are tested. A theoretical model is proposed that integrates basic assumptions about acquired reading/writing habits as a scaffold for spatial simulation, and primacy/dominance representation within such spatial simulations.

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