Spatial biases during mental arithmetic: evidence from eye movements on a blank screen

Hartmann, Matthias; Mast, Fred W.; Fischer, Martin H. (2015). Spatial biases during mental arithmetic: evidence from eye movements on a blank screen. Frontiers in psychology, 6(12), pp. 1-8. Frontiers Research Foundation 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00012

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While the influence of spatial-numerical associations in number categorization tasks has been well established, their role in mental arithmetic is less clear. It has been hypothesized that mental addition leads to rightward and upward shifts of spatial attention (along the “mental number line”), whereas subtraction leads to leftward and downward shifts. We addressed this hypothesis by analyzing spontaneous eye movements during mental arithmetic. Participants solved verbally presented arithmetic problems (e.g., 2 + 7, 8–3) aloud while looking at a blank screen. We found that eye movements reflected spatial biases in the ongoing mental operation: Gaze position shifted more upward when participants solved addition compared to subtraction problems, and the horizontal gaze position was partly determined by the magnitude of the operands. Interestingly, the difference between addition and subtraction trials was driven by the operator (plus vs. minus) but was not influenced by the computational process. Thus, our results do not support the idea of a mental movement toward the solution during arithmetic but indicate a semantic association between operation and space.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Cognitive Psychology, Perception and Methodology

UniBE Contributor:

Hartmann, Matthias and Mast, Fred

Subjects:

100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology

ISSN:

1664-1078

Publisher:

Frontiers Research Foundation

Funders:

[4] Swiss National Science Foundation

Language:

English

Submitter:

Matthias Maalouli-Hartmann

Date Deposited:

05 Mar 2015 12:10

Last Modified:

11 Sep 2015 11:01

Publisher DOI:

10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00012

Uncontrolled Keywords:

mental arithmetic, eye movements, mental number line, operational momentum, embodied cognition, grounded cognition

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.64039

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/64039

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