Sub-cortical areas process physical size but not numerical value

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A robust finding in the numerical cognition literature is that the physical size and the numerical value of two to-be-compared digits interact, resulting in a size congruity effect (SiCE). The current study focuses on the possible role of prestriate areas in a digit comparison Stroop-like task. In the visual pathway, prestriate areas refer to regions from the retina up to the primary visual cortex (V1). I hypothesized that processing of physical size, but not numerical value, begins already in prestriate areas. This is because physical size is a basic visual feature while the numerical value of a symbol is a learned convention that should be retrieved from long-term memory. Adult participants compared the size or the numerical value of two digits. Without participants’ awareness, I projected the digits either to the same eye, or each digit to a different eye. The latter type of presentation prevents prestriate areas from taking part in comparing the digits. Therefore, slower a response time under this condition hints at the involvement of prestriate areas. Evidence confirmed the initial hypothesis, demonstrating slower performance when the stimuli are segregated between the eyes but only for physical size comparisons. This finding suggests that at least the initial processing of physical size, when relevant, is done before, and by different neural substrate than numerical value. The implications of the study and future directions are discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1795-1802
Number of pages8
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • Numerical cognition
  • Stroop-like task
  • Subcortical areas

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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