Domain-General Factors Influencing Numerical and Arithmetic Processing

André Knops, Hans-Christoph Nuerk, Silke M. Göbel


This special issue contains 18 articles that address the question how numerical processes interact with domain-general factors. We start the editorial with a discussion of how to define domain-general versus domain-specific factors and then discuss the contributions to this special issue grouped into two core numerical domains that are subject to domain-general influences (see Figure 1). The first group of contributions addresses the question how numbers interact with spatial factors. The second group of contributions is concerned with factors that determine and predict arithmetic understanding, performance and development. This special issue shows that domain-general (Table 1a) as well as domain-specific (Table 1b) abilities influence numerical and arithmetic performance virtually at all levels and make it clear that for the field of numerical cognition a sole focus on one or several domain-specific factors like the approximate number system or spatial-numerical associations is not sufficient. Vice versa, in most studies that included domain-general and domain-specific variables, domain-specific numerical variables predicted arithmetic performance above and beyond domain-general variables. Therefore, a sole focus on domain-general aspects such as, for example, working memory, to explain, predict and foster arithmetic learning is also not sufficient. Based on the articles in this special issue we conclude that both domain-general and domain-specific factors contribute to numerical cognition. But the how, why and when of their contribution still needs to be better understood. We hope that this special issue may be helpful to readers in constraining future theory and model building about the interplay of domain-specific and domain-general factors.


spatial-numerical associations; arithmetic; intervention studies; spatial skills; working memory; modules

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