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      On the ordinality of numbers: A review of neural and behavioral studies.

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          Abstract

          The last several years have seen steady growth in research on the cognitive and neuronal mechanisms underlying how numbers are represented as part of ordered sequences. In the present review, we synthesize what is currently known about numerical ordinality from behavioral and neuroimaging research, point out major gaps in our current knowledge, and propose several hypotheses that may bear further investigation. Evidence suggests that how we process ordinality differs from how we process cardinality, but that this difference depends strongly on context-in particular, whether numbers are presented symbolically or nonsymbolically. Results also reveal many commonalities between numerical and nonnumerical ordinal processing; however, the degree to which numerical ordinality can be reduced to domain-general mechanisms remains unclear. One proposal is that numerical ordinality relies upon more general short-term memory mechanisms as well as more numerically specific long-term memory representations. It is also evident that numerical ordinality is highly multifaceted, with symbolic representations in particular allowing for a wide range of different types of ordinal relations, the complexity of which appears to increase over development. We examine the proposal that these relations may form the basis of a richer set of associations that may prove crucial to the emergence of more complex math abilities and concepts. In sum, ordinality appears to be an important and relatively understudied facet of numerical cognition that presents substantial opportunities for new and ground-breaking research.

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          Author and article information

          Affiliations
          [1 ] Numerical Cognition Laboratory, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada. Electronic address: ilyons@uwo.ca.
          [2 ] University of Graz, Graz, Austria.
          [3 ] Numerical Cognition Laboratory, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada.
          Journal
          Prog. Brain Res.
          Progress in brain research
          1875-7855
          0079-6123
          2016
          : 227
          S0079-6123(16)30036-X
          10.1016/bs.pbr.2016.04.010
          27339013
          © 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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