Activation of the intermediate sum in intentional and automatic calculations

Yael Abramovich, Liat Goldfarb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most research investigating how the cognitive system deals with arithmetic has focused on the processing of two addends. Arithmetic that involves more addends has specific cognitive demands such as the need to compute and hold the intermediate sum. This study examines the intermediate sums activations in intentional and automatic calculations. Experiment 1 included addition problems containing three operands. Participants were asked to calculate the sum and to remember the digits that appeared in the problem. The results revealed an interference effect in which it was hard to identify that the digit representing the intermediate sum was not actually one of the operands. Experiment 2, further examined if the intermediate sum is activated automatically when a task does not require calculation. Here, participants were presented with a prime of an addition problem followed by a target number. The task was to determine whether the target number is odd or even, while ignoring the addition problem in the prime. The results suggested that the intermediate sum of the addition problem in the prime was activated automatically and facilitated the target. Overall, the implications of those findings in the context of theories that relate to cognitive mathematical calculation is further discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1512
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberOCT
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Abramovich and Goldfarb.


  • Addition problems
  • Arithmetic problems
  • Automaticity and control
  • Inhibition
  • Intermediate sum
  • Numerical cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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