Number Recognition in Different Formats

Authored by: Marc Brysbaert

Handbook of Mathematical Cognition

Print publication date:  December  2004
Online publication date:  August  2005

Print ISBN: 9781841694115
eBook ISBN: 9780203998045
Adobe ISBN: 9781135423667


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An interesting aspect of numbers is that they can be presented in different formats. Although numbers are associated spontaneously with arabic digits, they can also be represented as Roman numerals (e.g., MMIV), sequences of words (both spoken and written), or in an analogue form (e.g., dots on a die, tallies on a sheet of paper, or bar graphs). This raises the question of how numbers in the different formats are processed. What are the commonalities and what are the differences? I will first deal with the analogue displays, which have a meaning both for humans and animals, and I will then continue with the verbal and the arabic numerals, which are uniquely human achievements. In line with McCloskey and Macaruso (1995), I will use the term number for format-independent aspects of numerical cognition and the term numeral to refer to modality-specific representations (i.e., analogue, verbal, and arabic numerals).

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