Comparative judgments of symbolic and non-symbolic stimuli yield different patterns of reaction times

Tali Leibovich*, Sarit Ashkenazi, Orly Rubinsten, Avishai Henik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Are different magnitudes, such as Arabic numerals, length and area, processed by the same system? Answering this question can shed light on the building blocks of our mathematical abilities. A shared representation theory suggested that discriminability of all magnitudes complies with Weber's law. The current work examined this suggestion. We employed comparative judgment tasks to investigate different types of comparisons - conceptual comparison of numbers, physical comparison of numbers and physical comparison of different shapes. We used 8 different size ratios and plotted reaction time as a function of these ratios. Our findings suggest that the relationship between discriminability and size ratio is not always linear, as previously suggested; rather, it is modulated by the type of comparison and the type of stimuli. Hence, we suggest that the representation of magnitude is not as rigid as previously suggested; it changes as a function of task demands and familiarity with the compared stimuli.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)308-315
Number of pages8
JournalActa Psychologica
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC Grant agreement no. 295644 .


  • Non-symbolic comparison
  • Numerical cognition
  • Ratio


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