Friday, June 18, 2010

For babies, number is related to size

It seems every time a researcher looks at how early babies can grasp some concept, it turns out to be earlier than we had thought. This time,
"We've shown that 9-month-olds are sensitive to 'more than' or 'less than' relations across the number, size and duration of objects. And what's really remarkable is they only need experience with one of these quantitative concepts in order to guess what the other quantities should look like."  
They showed babies computer screens with objects on the screen that were either big and striped or smaller and polka-dotted. They they showed them a screen where the difference was not size but number. If the more numerous objects were polka-dotted, they stared at the screen longer. The researcher says she thinks this means they expected the pattern on the more numerous to be the same as on the larger on the previous screen.

The article also says "adults associate smaller numbers with the left side of space and larger numbers with the right." I wonder if that's true of readers of languages that go right to left or top to bottom.

Also, "when adults are asked to quickly select the higher of two numbers, the task becomes much harder if the higher number is represented as physically smaller than the lower number." That's like the tests requiring people to read the name of a color if it is printed in a different color, such as RED or BLUE.

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