Contrasting left/right codes for response selection must not be necessarily associated with contrasting numerical features to get the SNARC

Mario Pinto, Michele Pellegrino, Stefano Lasaponara, Vincenzo Cestari, Fabrizio Doricchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The SNARC effect consists of faster reaction times to small numerical magnitudes when manual responses are delivered in the left-side of space and to large magnitudes when responses are delivered in the right-side. This spatial compatibility effect points at the interaction between the representations of space and that of numbers. Several studies have highlighted that an important determinant for the production of the SNARC is the use of contrasting left/right spatial codes in the selection of motor responses. In these studies, one spatial code for response selection, e.g. “left”, is usually associated with one number feature, e.g. “lower than 5”, while the contrasting spatial code, e.g. “right”, is associated with the contrasting number feature, e.g. “higher than 5”. Using a task with intermixed number and letter targets, here we show that significant and reliable SNARC effects are also produced when: a) one spatial response is associated with the intra-categorical discrimination of a number feature (i.e. magnitude or parity) and the contrasting response with the simple detection of letter targets; b) or when one spatial response is associated with the intra-categorical discrimination of the position of a letter in the alphabet (i.e. before or after “m”) and the contrasting spatial response with the simple detection of numerical targets (Experiments 1 and 2). In contrast, no reliable SNARC is found when no intra-categorical number or letter discrimination is required and contrasting left/right spatial response codes are simply associated with the discrimination between numbers and letters, e.g. “push left if the target is a number/push right if it is a letter” (Experiment 3). In a final control test (Experiment 4), we found no SNARC when the magnitude or parity classification of Arabic digits presented at central fixation was made unimanually with a left side or a right side-key and no left/right contrast was present in response selection. These results show that the use of contrasting left/right spatial response codes elicits reliable SNARC effects independently of their assignment to contrasting number features and confirm the important role played by the use of spatial codes in the genesis of the number-space interaction.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102887
JournalActa Psychologica
Volume198
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2019

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Keywords

  • Go/No-Go task
  • Numerical cognition
  • SNARC
  • Space-number association
  • Spatial cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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