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      Domain-General Factors Influencing Numerical and Arithmetic Processing


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          This special issue contains 18 articles that address the question how numerical processes interact with domain-general factors. We start the editorial with a discussion of how to define domain-general versus domain-specific factors and then discuss the contributions to this special issue grouped into two core numerical domains that are subject to domain-general influences (see Figure 1). The first group of contributions addresses the question how numbers interact with spatial factors. The second group of contributions is concerned with factors that determine and predict arithmetic understanding, performance and development. This special issue shows that domain-general (Table 1a) as well as domain-specific (Table 1b) abilities influence numerical and arithmetic performance virtually at all levels and make it clear that for the field of numerical cognition a sole focus on one or several domain-specific factors like the approximate number system or spatial-numerical associations is not sufficient. Vice versa, in most studies that included domain-general and domain-specific variables, domain-specific numerical variables predicted arithmetic performance above and beyond domain-general variables. Therefore, a sole focus on domain-general aspects such as, for example, working memory, to explain, predict and foster arithmetic learning is also not sufficient. Based on the articles in this special issue we conclude that both domain-general and domain-specific factors contribute to numerical cognition. But the how, why and when of their contribution still needs to be better understood. We hope that this special issue may be helpful to readers in constraining future theory and model building about the interplay of domain-specific and domain-general factors.

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          Most cited references56

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            Cultural recycling of cortical maps.

            Part of human cortex is specialized for cultural domains such as reading and arithmetic, whose invention is too recent to have influenced the evolution of our species. Representations of letter strings and of numbers occupy reproducible locations within large-scale macromaps, respectively in the left occipito-temporal and bilateral intraparietal cortex. Furthermore, recent fMRI studies reveal a systematic architecture within these areas. To explain this paradoxical cerebral invariance of cultural maps, we propose a neuronal recycling hypothesis, according to which cultural inventions invade evolutionarily older brain circuits and inherit many of their structural constraints.
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              Interactions between number and space in parietal cortex.

              Since the time of Pythagoras, numerical and spatial representations have been inextricably linked. We suggest that the relationship between the two is deeply rooted in the brain's organization for these capacities. Many behavioural and patient studies have shown that numerical-spatial interactions run far deeper than simply cultural constructions, and, instead, influence behaviour at several levels. By combining two previously independent lines of research, neuroimaging studies of numerical cognition in humans, and physiological studies of spatial cognition in monkeys, we propose that these numerical-spatial interactions arise from common parietal circuits for attention to external space and internal representations of numbers.

                Author and article information

                J Numer Cogn
                Journal of Numerical Cognition
                J. Numer. Cogn.
                22 December 2017
                : 3
                : 2
                : 112-132
                [a ]Department of Psychology, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany
                [b ]CNRS UMR 8240, Laboratory for the Psychology of Child Development and Education, University Paris Descartes, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Paris, France
                [c ]Fachbereich Psychologie, Universität Tübingen , Tübingen, Germany
                [d ] IWM- Institut für Wissensmedien , Tübingen, Germany
                [e ] LEAD Graduate School and Research Network , Tübingen, Germany
                [f ]Department of Psychology, University of York , York, United Kingdom
                Author notes
                [* ]Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Department of Psychology, Unter den Linden 6, D-10099 Berlin, Germany. knops.andre@ 123456gmail.com
                Copyright @ 2017

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) 4.0 License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


                modules,working memory,spatial skills,intervention studies,arithmetic,spatial-numerical associations


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