Your neighbors define your value: spatial bias in number comparison

  • Samuel Shaki
  • Martin H. Fischer


Several chronometric biases in numerical cognition have informed our understanding of a mental number line (MNL). Complementing this approach, we investigated spatial performance in a magnitude comparison task. Participants located the larger or smaller number of a pair on a horizontal line representing the interval from 0 to 10. Experiments 1 and 2 used only number pairs one unit apart and found that digits were localized farther to the right with “select larger†instructions than with “select smaller†instructions. However, when numerical distance was varied (Experiment 3), digits were localized away from numerically near neighbors and towards numerically far neighbors. This neighborhood effect reveals context -specific distortions in number representation not previously noticed with chronometric measures.

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