Evidence for Automatic, Stimulus Driven, Arithmetic Processing of Single-digit Multiplication Problems

Eldad Keha*, Daria Klotsvog, Sarit Ashkenazi, Eyal Kalanthroff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Certain stimuli can automatically trigger different behaviors in a stimulus-driven manner. To investigate whether mathematical equations automatically trigger the tendency to engage in arithmetic processing, we asked whether the presentation of multiplication equations in an irrelevant dimension can trigger the automatic task of arithmetic processing and if so, which processes are involved. To that end, we employed a color-naming task in which participants had to name the color of different stimuli, such as: mathematical equations (e.g., 4 × 6 = 24), neutral-symbols (e.g., ####), neutral-words (e.g., building), and same-number strings (e.g., 11111), which appeared as one of four different colors. We found that mathematical equations and regular words in the irrelevant dimension triggered more task conflict (i.e., color naming’s reaction time was longer) as compared to same-number strings. In addition, we found evidence for the automatic activation of different numerical processes; such that large-size equations (7 × 9 = 63) triggered more conflict as compared with small-size (2 × 3 = 6) equations and same-parity incorrect equations (3 × 2 = 8) triggered more conflict as compared to different-parity incorrect equations (4 × 2 = 9). We found no evidence indicating a distinction between the correct and incorrect equations. We discussed the relevance of the findings to the automaticity of arithmetic abilities and other domains in numerical cognition.

Original languageEnglish
Article number49
JournalJournal of Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s).


  • automaticity
  • numerical cognition
  • selective attention
  • Stimulus-driven behavior
  • task conflict


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