This study probed the cognitive mechanisms that underlie order processing for number symbols, specifically the extent to which the direction and format in which number symbols are presented influence the processing of numerical order, as well as the extent to which the relationship between numerical order processing and mathematical achievement is specific to Arabic numerals or generalisable to other notational formats. Seventy adults who were bilingual in English and Chinese completed a Numerical Ordinality Task, using number sequences of various directional conditions (i.e., ascending, descending, mixed) and notational formats (i.e., Arabic numerals, English number words, and Chinese number words). Order processing was found to occur for ascending and descending number sequences (i.e., ordered but not non-ordered trials), with the overall pattern of data supporting the theoretical perspective that the strength and closeness of associations between items in the number sequence could underlie numerical order processing. However, order processing was found to be independent of the notational format in which the numerical stimuli were presented, suggesting that the psychological representations and processes associated with numerical order are abstract across different formats of number symbols. In addition, a relationship between the processing speed for numerical order judgements and mathematical achievement was observed for Arabic numerals and Chinese number words, and to a weaker extent, English number words. Together, our findings have started to uncover the cognitive mechanisms that could underlie order processing for different formats of number symbols, and raise new questions about the generalisability of these findings to other notational formats.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/daniel-ansari/9/