Babies and Math: A Meta-Analysis of Infants’ Simple Arithmetic Competence
Wynn’s (1992) seminal research reported that infants looked longer at stimuli representing “incorrect” versus “correct” solutions of basic addition and subtraction problems and concluded that infants have innate arithmetical abilities. Since then, infancy researchers have attempted to replicate this effect, yielding mixed findings. The present meta-analysis aimed to systematically compile and synthesize all of the primary replications and extensions of Wynn (1992) that have been conducted to date. The synthesis included 12 studies consisting of 26 independent samples and 550 unique infants. The summary effect, computed using a random-effects model, was statistically significant, d = +0.34, p < .001, suggesting that the phenomenon Wynn originally reported is reliable. Five different tests of publication bias yielded mixed results, suggesting that while a moderate level of publication bias is probable, the summary effect would be positive even after accounting for this issue. Out of the 10 metamoderators tested, none were found to be significant, but most of the moderator subgroups were significantly different from a null effect. Although this meta-analysis provides support for Wynn’s original findings, further research is warranted to understand the underlying mechanisms responsible for infants’ visual preferences for “mathematically incorrect” test stimuli.