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
Date created: | Last Updated:
: DOI | ARK
Creating DOI. Please wait...
Description: 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 a weaker one than the 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.