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Running the number line : Rapid shifts of attention in single-digit arithmetic
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It has been recently proposed that adults might solve single-digit addition and subtraction problems by rapidly moving through an ordered representation of numbers. In the present study, we tested whether these movements manifest themselves by on-line shifts of attention during arithmetic problem-solving. In two experiments, adult participants were presented with single-digit addition, subtraction and multiplication problems. Operands and operator were presented sequentially on the screen. Although both the first operand and the operator were presented at the center of the screen, the second operand was presented either to the left or to the right side of space. We found that addition problems were solved faster when the second operand appeared to the right than to the left side (Experiments 1 & 2). In contrast, subtraction problems were solved faster when the second operand appeared to the left than to the right side (Experiment 1). No operation-dependent spatial bias was observed in the same time window when the second operand was zero (Experiment 1), and no bias was observed when the operation was a multiplication (Experiment 2). Therefore, our results demonstrate that solving single-digit addition and subtraction, but not multiplication, is associated with horizontal shifts of attention. Our findings support the idea that mental movements to the left or right of a sequential representation of numbers are elicited during single-digit arithmetic.
Arithmetic, Arithmetic sign, Attention, Mental number line, Procedure, Retrieval
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