Variability in the alignment of number and space across languages and tasks
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionBender A, Rothe-Wulf A, Beller S. Variability in the alignment of number and space across languages and tasks. Frontiers in Psychology. 2018;9:1724 https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01724
While the domains of space and number appear to be linked in human brains and minds, their conceptualization still differs across languages and cultures. For instance, frames of reference for spatial descriptions vary according to task, context, and cultural background, and the features of the mental number line depend on formal education and writing direction. To shedmore light on the influence of culture/language and task on such conceptualizations, we conducted a large-scale survey with speakers of five languages that differ in writing systems, preferences for spatial and temporal representations, and/or composition of number words. Here, we report data obtained from tasks on ordered arrangements, including numbers, letters, and written text. Comparing these data across tasks, domains, and languages indicates that, even within a single domain, representations may differ depending on task characteristics, and that the degree of cross-domain alignment varies with domains and culture.