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Description: Spatial metaphors are commonly used to conceptualise quantity. Evidence suggests that English speakers imagine numbers as increasing horizontally from left to right, or increasing vertically upwards. Recent research suggests that the type of axis used to spatialise quantities may depend on the type of quantity conceptualised. In this study, we conducted two experiments to investigate spatial-numerical associations using a web-based placement task in which participants were instructed to position different quantities in space. Axial preference was unaffected by whether the numbers were presented in isolation (e.g., ‘2’, ‘4’, ‘7’, ‘9’) or with additional ordinal information (e.g., ‘2nd’, ‘4th’, ‘7th’, ‘9th’). Axial preference was also unaffected by whether quantity stimuli were presented in linguistic form (e.g., 'two', 'four', 'seven', 'nine') or numeric form (e.g., '2', '4', '7', '9'). However, vague quantity words (‘least’, ‘less’, ‘more’, ‘more’) were more likely to be placed vertically than exact numerals (‘2’, ‘4’, ‘7’, ‘9’) and exact number words (‘two’, ‘four’, ‘seven’, ‘nine’). This vertical preference for vague quantities was confirmed by a meta-analysis that aggregated the data from both our experiments. Our results demonstrate that people have different spatial-numerical associations for different types of quantities.


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