The representational space of numerical magnitude: Illusions of length

Maria Dolores De Hevia, Luisa Girelli, Emanuela Bricolo, Giuseppe Vallar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years, a growing amount of evidence concerning the relationships between numerical and spatial representations has been interpreted, by and large, in favour of the mental number line hypothesis-namely, the analogue continuum where numbers are spatially represented (Dehaene, 1992; Dehaene, Piazza, Pinel, & Cohen, 2003). This numerical representation is considered the core of number meaning and, accordingly, needs to be accessed whenever numbers are semantically processed. The present study explored, by means of a length reproduction task, whether besides the activation of lateralized spatial codes, numerical processing modulates the mental representation of a horizontal spatial extension. Mis-estimations of length induced by Arabic numbers are interpreted in terms of a cognitive illusion, according to which the elaboration of magnitude information brings about an expansion or compression of the mental representation of spatial extension. These results support the hypothesis that visuo-spatial resources are involved in the representation of numerical magnitude.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1496-1514
Number of pages19
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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