Reversing the Manual Digit Bias in Two-Digit Number Comparison

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Though recent work in numerical cognition has supported a strong tie between numerical and spatial representations (e.g., a mental number line), less is known about such ties in multi-digit number representations. Along this line, Bloechle, Huber, and Moeller (2015) found that pointing positions in two-digit number comparison were biased leftward toward the decade digit. Moreover, this bias was reduced in unit-decade incompatible pairs. In the present study, we tracked computer mouse movements as participants compared two-digit numbers to a fixed standard (55). Similar to Bloechle et al. (2015), we found that trajectories exhibited a leftward bias that was reduced for unit-decade incompatible comparisons. However, when positions of response labels were reversed, the biases reversed. That is, we found a rightward bias for compatible pairs that was reduced for incompatible pairs. This result calls into question a purely embodied representation of place value structure and instead supports a competition model of two-digit number representation.

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