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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00236

Developmental changes in the effect of active left and right head rotation on random number generation

Charlotte Sosson1,  Carrie Georges1*,  Mathieu Guillaume1, Anne-Marie Schuller1 and  Christine Schiltz1
  • 1University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg

Numbers are thought to be spatially organized along a left-to-right horizontal axis with small/large numbers on its left/right respectively. Behavioural evidence for this mental number line (MNL) comes from studies showing that the reallocation of spatial attention by active left/right head rotation facilitated the generation of small/large numbers respectively. While spatial biases in random number generation (RNG) during active movement are well established in adults, comparable evidence in children is lacking and it remains unclear whether and how children’s access to the MNL is affected by active head rotation. To get a better understanding of the development of embodied number processing, we investigated the effect of active head rotation on the mean of generated numbers as well as the mean difference between each number and its immediately preceding response (the first order difference; FOD) not only in adults (n = 24), but also in 7- to 11-year-old elementary school children (n = 70). Since the sign and absolute value of FODs carry distinct information regarding spatial attention shifts along the MNL, namely their direction (left/right) and size (narrow/wide) respectively, we additionally assessed the influence of rotation on the total of negative and positive FODs regardless of their numerical values as well as on their absolute values. In line with previous studies, adults produced on average smaller numbers and generated smaller mean FODs during left than right rotation. More concretely, they produced more negative/positive FODs during left/right rotation respectively and the size of negative FODs was larger (in terms of absolute value) during left than right rotation. Importantly, as opposed to adults, no significant differences in RNG between left and right head rotations were observed in children. Potential explanations for such age-related changes in the effect of active head rotation on RNG are discussed. Altogether, the present study confirms that numerical processing is spatially grounded in adults and suggests that its embodied aspect undergoes significant developmental changes.

Keywords: Numerical cognition, Embodied Cognition, Random Number Generation, active head rotation, developmental changes, Children

Received: 17 Nov 2017; Accepted: 12 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Frank Domahs, Philipps University of Marburg, Germany

Reviewed by:

Tobias Loetscher, University of South Australia, Australia
Elena Sixtus, University of Potsdam, Germany  

Copyright: © 2018 Sosson, Georges, Guillaume, Schuller and Schiltz. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Carrie Georges, University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg, Luxembourg, carrie.georges@uni.lu