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Processing Symbolic Numbers: The Example of Distance and Size Effects

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Abstract

According to the dominant view in the literature, several numerical cognition phenomena are explained coherently and parsimoniously by the Approximate Number System (ANS) model, which supposes the existence of an evolutionarily old, simple representation behind many numerical tasks. We offer an alternative account that proposes that only nonsymbolic numbers are processed by the ANS, while symbolic numbers, which are more essential to human mathematical capabilities, are processed by the Discrete Semantic System (DSS). In the DSS, symbolic numbers are stored in a network of nodes, similar to conceptual or linguistic networks. The benefit of the DSS model and the benefit of the more general hybrid ANS–DSS framework are demonstrated using the crucial example of the distance and size effects of comparison tasks.

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Both the speed and the accuracy of a perceptual judgment depend on the strength of the sensory stimulation. When stimulus strength is high, accuracy is high and response time is fast; when stimulus strength is low, accuracy is low and response time is slow. Although the psychometric function is well established as a tool for analyzing the relationship between accuracy and stimulus strength, the corresponding chronometric function for the relationship between response time and stimulus strength has not received as much consideration. In this article, we describe a theory of perceptual decision making based on a diffusion model. In it, a decision is based on the additive accumulation of sensory evidence over time to a bound. Combined with simple scaling assumptions, the proportional-rate and power-rate diffusion models predict simple analytic expressions for both the chronometric and psychometric functions. In a series of psychophysical experiments, we show that this theory accounts for response time and accuracy as a function of both stimulus strength and speed-accuracy instructions. In particular, the results demonstrate a close coupling between response time and accuracy. The theory is also shown to subsume the predictions of Piéron's Law, a power function dependence of response time on stimulus strength. The theory's analytic chronometric function allows one to extend theories of accuracy to response time.
Article
The diffusion decision model allows detailed explanations of behavior in two-choice discrimination tasks. In this article, the model is reviewed to show how it translates behavioral data-accuracy, mean response times, and response time distributions-into components of cognitive processing. Three experiments are used to illustrate experimental manipulations of three components: stimulus difficulty affects the quality of information on which a decision is based; instructions emphasizing either speed or accuracy affect the criterial amounts of information that a subject requires before initiating a response; and the relative proportions of the two stimuli affect biases in drift rate and starting point. The experiments also illustrate the strong constraints that ensure the model is empirically testable and potentially falsifiable. The broad range of applications of the model is also reviewed, including research in the domains of aging and neurophysiology.
Modelling SNARC by using polarity codes to adjust drift rates
  • C Leth-Steensen
  • J Lucas
  • W M Petrusic
Leth-Steensen, C., Lucas, J., & Petrusic, W. M. (2011). Modelling SNARC by using polarity codes to adjust drift rates. Proceedings of the 27th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Psychophysics, Herzliya, Israel, 357-362.
Lengyel: Processing symbolic number comparison task
  • Preprint Krajcsi
  • Kojouharova
PREPRINT Krajcsi, Kojouharova, Lengyel: Processing symbolic number comparison task 14/16