Malleability of the approximate number system: effects of feedback and training.
Prior research demonstrates that animals and humans share an approximate number system (ANS), characterized by ratio dependence and that the precision of this system increases substantially over human development. The goal of the present research was to investigate the malleability of the ANS (as measured by Weber fraction) in adult subjects in response to feedback and to explore the relationship between ANS acuity and acuity on another magnitude comparison task. We tested each of 20 subjects over six 1-h sessions. The main findings were that (a) Weber fractions rapidly decreased when trial-by-trial feedback was introduced in the second session and remained stable over continued training, (b) Weber fractions remained steady when trial-by-trial feedback was removed in session 6, (c)Weber fractions from the number comparison task were positively correlated with Weber fractions from a line length comparison task, (d) improvement in Weber fractions in response to feedback for the number task did not transfer to the line length task, (e) finally, the precision of the ANS was positively correlated with math, but not verbal, standardized aptitude scores. Potential neural correlates of the perceptual information and decision processes are considered, and predictions regarding the neural correlates of ANS malleability are discussed.
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