A paper entitled “Cultural factors weaken but do not reverse left-to-right spatial biases in numerosity processing: Data from Arabic and English monoliterates and Arabic-English biliterates” (Lopiccolo & Chang, 2021) has been published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE.
Abstract: Directional response biases due to a conceptual link between space and number, such as a left-to-right hand bias for increasing numerical magnitude, are known as the SNARC (Spatial-Numerical Association of Response Codes) effect. We investigated how the SNARC effect for numerosities would be influenced by reading-writing direction, task instructions, and ambient visual environment in four literate populations exemplifying opposite reading-writing cultures—namely, Arabic (right-to-left script) and English (left-to-right script). Monoliterates and biliterates in Jordan and the U.S. completed a speeded numerosity comparison task to assess the directionality and magnitude of a SNARC effect in their numerosity processing. Monoliterates’ results replicated previously documented effects of reading-writing direction and task instructions: the SNARC effect found in left-to-right readers was weakened in right-to-left readers, and the left-to-right group exhibited a task-dependency effect (SNARC effect in the smaller condition, reverse SNARC effect in the larger condition). Biliterates’ results did not show a clear effect of environment; instead, both biliterate groups resembled English monoliterates in showing a left-to-right, task-dependent SNARC effect, albeit weaker than English monoliterates’. The absence of significant biases in all Arabic-reading groups (biliterates and Arabic monoliterates) points to a potential conflict between distinct spatial-numerical mapping codes. This view is explained in terms of the proposed Multiple Competing Codes Theory (MCCT), which posits three distinct spatial-numerical mapping codes (innate, cardinal, ordinal) during numerical processing—each involved at varying levels depending on individual and task factors.
This study followed Open Science practices, and all materials and data are publicly accessible via the Open Science Framework at https://osf.io/fq8ka/. Dominique, an alum of the lab, is now a Research Assistant in the Numerical Brain Lab at Vanderbilt University.