ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2017, Vol. 49 ›› Issue (5): 602-610.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2017.00602

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The influence of different numeral representations and body experience on numeral cognition under the paradigm of response-effect compatibility

SONG Xiaolei; FU Xuna; ZHANG Junting; YOU Xuqun   

  1. (School of Psychology, Shaanxi Normal University; Shaanxi Key Laboratory of Behavior and Cognitive Neuroscience, Xi’an 710062)
  • Received:2016-07-14 Published:2017-05-25 Online:2017-05-25
  • Contact: YOU Xuqun, E-mail:, SONG Xiaolei, E-mail:


The Response-Effect (R-E) compatibility paradigm is derived from the ideomotor theory, which assumes that motor actions are initiated by activating anticipatory images of their intended effects. In a typical R-E compatibility paradigm, a stimulus calls for a response that is repeatedly associated with a given outcome (or effect). After a while, responses to the stimuli become faster when associated with their expected outcomes than with unexpected ones. Finger-numeral representation is one of the methods to represent numbers. Previous studies have shown that this kind of representation can promote and forecast the development of young children’s mathematical ability. Under the Chinese culture, the finger numeral representation has its special connotation. Especially, the representation of larger numbers is a kind of symbolic representation. Therefore, the aims of the present study were to examine the existence of R-E compatibility on numeral representation, compare the differences among these numeral representations, and reveal the influence of the ways of numeral representations and body experiences on human cognitive processes. Three experiments were conducted in this present study. The purpose of experiment 1 was to verify the existence of R-E compatibility effect in numeral conception. The aim of experiment 2 was to clarify the advantage effect of finger-numeral representation, in which cumulative fingers representing numbers with similar nature in experiment 1 was used in this experiment. The way of finger numeral representation of Chinese was adopted in experiment 3, to rule out the representation of number 1 and 2 in the perception level of compatibility, and discuss the influence of individual finger habits on R-E compatibility. In all the three experiments, participants were asked to perform simple additions and provide the answers verbally. The onset of this verbal response triggered the display of correct or incorrect result presented either as a series of rods or as a finger-numeral representation. According to the ideomotor theory, these can be regarded as the sensory outcomes associated with the response of this operation. The result was correct under compatibility condition, while incorrect under incompatibility condition. The results showed that R-E compatibility existed all the time during three kinds of number representations, which supported the ideomotor theory. In addition, it also showed that these fingers number representations were better than rods under the compatible conditions, while no difference under the incompatible conditions. This suggested the advantages of the fingers number representation when fingers were represented as part of the body compared to shown as material objects, which fitted well with the view of embodied numerosity. There was no significant difference between two finger-number representing methods. Even though, the existed of the R-E compatibility in experiment 3 also confirmed the existence of semantic connection between the fingers-number representation and specific numbers. In conclusion, these results indicated that (1) the numeral conception of R-E compatibility exists, which is in consistent with the ideomotor theory; and (2) finger-number representation has the advantage of mapping preference between response and effect, which confirms the view of embodied numerosity.

Key words: response-effect compatibility, ideomotor theory, finger-numeral representation, embodied numerosity