Comparative Judgment of Numerosity and Numerical Magnitude: Attention Preempts Automaticity

Ainat Pansky, Daniel Algom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is commonly believed that humans are unable to ignore the meanings of numerical symbols, even when these meanings are irrelevant to the task at hand. In 5 experiments, the authors tested the notion of automatic activation of numerical magnitude by asking participants to compare, while timed, pairs of numerical arrays on either numerosity or numerical value. Garner and Stroop effects were used to gauge the degree of interactive processing. The results showed that both effects were sensitive to the discriminability of values along the constituent dimensions, to the number of stimulus values used, and to practice and motivation. Notably, Stroop and Garner effects were eliminated under several conditions. These findings are incompatible with claims of obligatory activation of meaning in numerical processing, and they cast doubt on theories positing automatic processing of semantic information for alphanumerical symbols.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-274
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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