How and Why Do Number-Space Associations Co-Vary in Implicit and Explicit Magnitude Processing Tasks?


  • Carrie Georges
  • Danielle Hoffmann
  • Christine Schiltz


Evidence for number-space associations in implicit and explicit magnitude processing tasks comes from the parity and magnitude SNARC effect respectively. Different spatial accounts were suggested to underlie these spatial-numerical associations (SNAs) with some inconsistencies in the literature. To determine whether the parity and magnitude SNAs arise from a single predominant account or task-dependent coding mechanisms, we adopted an individual differences approach to study their correlation and the extent of their association with arithmetic performance, spatial visualization ability and visualization profile. Additionally, we performed moderation analyses to determine whether the relation between these SNAs depended on individual differences in those cognitive factors. The parity and magnitude SNAs did not correlate and were differentially predicted by arithmetic performance and visualization profile respectively. These variables, however, also moderated the relation between the SNAs. While positive correlations were observed in object-visualizers with lower arithmetic performances, correlations were negative in spatial-visualizers with higher arithmetic performances. This suggests the predominance of a single account for both implicit and explicit SNAs in the two types of visualizers. However, the spatial nature of the account differs between object- and spatial-visualizers. No relation occurred in mixed-visualizers, indicating the activation of task-dependent coding mechanisms. Individual differences in arithmetic performance and visualization profile thus determined whether SNAs in implicit and explicit tasks co-varied and supposedly relied on similar or unrelated spatial coding mechanisms. This explains some inconsistencies in the literature regarding SNAs and highlights the usefulness of moderation analyses for understanding how the relation between different numerical concepts varies between individuals.