Spontaneous analog number representations in 3-year-old children.


Journal Article

When enumerating small sets of elements nonverbally, human infants often show a set-size limitation whereby they are unable to represent sets larger than three elements. This finding has been interpreted as evidence that infants spontaneously represent small numbers with an object-file system instead of an analog magnitude system (Feigenson, Dehaene & Spelke, 2004). In contrast, non-human animals and adult humans have been shown to rely on analog magnitudes for representing both small and large numbers (Brannon & Terrace, 1998; Cantlon & Brannon, 2007; Cordes, Gelman, Gallistel & Whalen, 2001). Here we demonstrate that, like adults and non-human animals, children as young as 3 years of age spontaneously employ analog magnitude representations to enumerate both small and large sets. Moreover, we show that children spontaneously attend to numerical value in lieu of cumulative surface area. These findings provide evidence of young children's greater sensitivity to number relative to other quantities and demonstrate continuity in the process they spontaneously recruit to judge small and large values.

Full Text

Cited Authors

  • Cantlon, JF; Safford, KE; Brannon, EM

Published Date

  • March 2010

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 13 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 289 - 297

PubMed ID

  • 20136925

Pubmed Central ID

  • 20136925

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1467-7687

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1363-755X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2009.00887.x


  • eng