Comparative judgments of symbolic and non-symbolic stimuli yield different patterns of reaction times

Tali Leibovich, Sarit Ashkenazi, Orly Rubinsten, Avishai Henik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Are different magnitudes, such as Arabic numerals, length and area, processed by the same system? Answering this question can shed light on the building blocks of our mathematical abilities. A shared representation theory suggested that discriminability of all magnitudes complies with Weber's law. The current work examined this suggestion. We employed comparative judgment tasks to investigate different types of comparisons - conceptual comparison of numbers, physical comparison of numbers and physical comparison of different shapes. We used 8 different size ratios and plotted reaction time as a function of these ratios. Our findings suggest that the relationship between discriminability and size ratio is not always linear, as previously suggested; rather, it is modulated by the type of comparison and the type of stimuli. Hence, we suggest that the representation of magnitude is not as rigid as previously suggested; it changes as a function of task demands and familiarity with the compared stimuli.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-315
Number of pages8
JournalActa Psychologica
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC Grant agreement no. 295644 .


  • Non-symbolic comparison
  • Numerical cognition
  • Ratio

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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