Developmental Continuity in the Link Between Sensitivity to Numerosity and Physical Size


  • Ariel Starr
  • Elizabeth M. Brannon


Converging evidence suggests that representations of number, space, and other dimensions depend on a general representation of magnitude. However, it is unclear whether there exists a privileged relation between certain magnitude dimensions or if all continuous magnitudes are equivalently related. Four-year-old children and adults were tested with three magnitude comparison tasks – nonsymbolic number, line length, and luminance – to determine whether individual differences in sensitivity are stable across dimensions. A Weber fraction (w) was calculated for each participant in each stimulus dimension. For both children and adults, accuracy and w values for number and line length comparison were significantly correlated, whereas neither accuracy nor w was correlated for number and luminance comparison. However, although line length and luminance comparison performance were not correlated in children, there was a significant relation in adults. These results suggest that there is a privileged relation between number and line length that emerges early in development and that relations between other magnitude dimensions may be later constructed over the course of development.