Research Topic

On the Development of Space-Number Relations: Linguistic and Cognitive Determinants, Influences, and Associations

About this Research Topic

Space and numbers are closely linked to each other in the human mind and brain. These bidirectional links may be the end product of innate biases and/or developmental, educational, and acculturation processes. Whatever their origin may be, there is no doubt that space-number relationships are influenced by ...

Space and numbers are closely linked to each other in the human mind and brain. These bidirectional links may be the end product of innate biases and/or developmental, educational, and acculturation processes. Whatever their origin may be, there is no doubt that space-number relationships are influenced by linguistic and other cognitive determinants in adults. Biological development, refinement of domain-general abilities like inhibition, working memory capacity, reasoning skills, embodied representations underlying spatial and/or numerical processes may create a basis for formation or restructuring of the links between space and numbers. In modern societies, all this happens in parallel to enculturation encompassing linguistic factors (e.g., reading / writing direction; grammatical number forms), cognitive factors that are not or only partially related to language (e.g., working memory, inhibition) and those that are explicitly related to formal math education and culture (e.g., teaching a number line, individually, culturally or religiously (dys-)preferred numbers like 3, 8, 12, or 13). However, such processes neither begin nor end with adulthood, but continue developing through the lifespan.

The associations between space and numbers seems to vary across lifetime development: some space-number relationships become weaker with age so that it is easier to inhibit processing of irrelevant spatial / numerical features in conflicting stimuli. On the other hand, some space number associations are strengthened in lifetime development, possibly due to longer exposure to cultural factors, as well as due to decrease in efficiency of inhibition mechanism.

A better theoretical distinction is needed to differentiate the development of different types of space-number relationships over the lifetime. For instance, an important distinction in such models is the distinction between directionality of space-number relations (e.g., SNARC effect) and extension of spatial and numerical magnitudes, such as conflicts between spatial and numerical codes in Approximate Number System (ANS) tasks, where different numerosities (and hence different visually corresponding aspects) have to be compared.

In this Research Topic, we would like to bring together a wide range of empirical and theoretical perspectives of lifetime development of the relationships between several aspects of spatial and numerical processing. These papers may, for instance, cover spatial-directional biases (SNARC-related effects), relations between spatial and numerical magnitudes and orders (such as ANS tasks or number line estimation tasks or operational momentum tasks), or the relationship between purely spatial (e.g., spatial working memory) and purely numerical tasks. Submitted manuscripts are not restricted to any particular method or any particular age during life course development and can have any format allowed in Frontiers of Psychology. Any contribution on the above aspects of the relationship between spatial and number processing in the human lifetime which helps us to understand how space-number relationships are developed, maintained, changed, or eventually lost, is welcome.


Keywords: space-number associations; cultural and linguistic influences; SNARC, approximate number system, number line estimation


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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22 December 2017 Manuscript

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22 December 2017 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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