Intuitions for Multiplication in Amazonian Adults and in U.S. Adults and Children

Abstract : Success at non-symbolic addition and subtraction has been documented with diverse populations: preschool children, occidental adults (in conditions preventing counting), and also an indigene group from the Amazon, the Mundurucu, who speak a language with a restricted number lexicon (Barth et al., 2005; Pica et al., 2004). In all these populations, performance shows a characteristic ratio effect: the sums and differences that participants estimate are approximate, and the range of uncertainty increases for larger numbers. Studies of brain-damaged patients (Lemer et al, 2003), brain imaging (Dehaene et al., 2003), or task interference (Lee & Kang, 2002) suggest that multiplication and division, on the contrary, may be mediated by language and rotelearned tables. Nevertheless, the existence of a universal capacity for nonsymbolic multiplication has not been investigated directly. Here, we investigated whether multiplication is part of humans’ universal knowledge about numbers. We presented computer animations illustrating nonsymbolic multiplication problems to three different populations: US adults, Amazonian Adults, and US children at two ages, before and during the first years oflearning multiplication (respectively Preschool-1st grade, and 3rd-5th grade).
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Poster communications
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Véronique Izard, Pierre Pica, Stanislas Dehaene, Elizabeth Spelke. Intuitions for Multiplication in Amazonian Adults and in U.S. Adults and Children. Biennal Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development , Apr 2009, Denver,, United States. ⟨http://www.srcd.org/⟩. ⟨halshs-01495495⟩

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