Comparative Cognition of Number Representation

Dustin J. Merritt, Nicholas K. DeWind and Elizabeth M. Brannon

in The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Cognition

Second edition

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780195392661
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Comparative Cognition of Number Representation

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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This chapter reviews behavioral evidence that animals can represent number independently of other stimulus dimensions and manipulate these representations arithmetically. It describes how animals and humans show many of the same psychophysical signatures when reasoning numerically, such as ratio dependence, the semantic congruity effect, numerical illusions, and cross-modal matching. It then reviews neurobiological data suggesting that monkeys and humans use homologous areas of the brain when representing and processing number. Collectively, the research described suggests that nonhuman animals share with humans a basic capacity to quantify the world around them that likely serves as a foundation for the uniquely rich human mathematical mind.

Keywords: number representation; numerical reasoning; nonhuman animals; ratio dependence; the semantic congruity effect; numerical illusions; cross-modal matching

Article.  16432 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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