Three Parietal Circuits for Number Processing

Authored by: Stanislas Dehaene , Manuela Piazza , Philippe Pinel , Laurent Cohen

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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Did evolution endow the human brain with a predisposition to represent dedicated domains of knowledge? We have previously argued that the number domain provides a good candidate for such a biologically determined semantic domain (Dehaene, 1997; Dehaene, Dehaene-Lambertz, & Cohen, 1998a). Three criteria for domain specificity suggest that number and arithmetic are more than just cultural inventions and may have their ultimate roots in brain evolution. First, a capacity to attend to numerosity and to manipulate it internally in elementary computations is present in animals, even in the absence of training (Hauser, Carey, & Hauser, 2000). Second, a similar capacity for elementary number processing is found early on in human development, prior to schooling or even prior to the development of language skills (Spelke & Dehaene, 1999; Xu & Spelke, 2000). This suggests that numerical development follows a distinct developmental trajectory based on mechanisms with a long prior evolutionary history.

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