Publications by authors named "Stella F Lourenco"

59 Publications

Measurement of Cognition for the National Children's Study.

Front Pediatr 2021 31;9:603126. Epub 2021 May 31.

Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, United States.

The National Children's Study Cognitive Health Domain Team developed detailed plans for assessing cognition longitudinally from infancy to early adulthood. These plans identify high-priority aspects of cognition that can be measured efficiently and effectively, and we believe they can serve as a model for future large-scale longitudinal research. For infancy and toddlerhood, we proposed several paradigms that collectively allowed us to assess six broad cognitive constructs: (1) executive function skills, (2) episodic memory, (3) language, (4) processing speed, (5) spatial and numerical processing, and (6) social cognition. In some cases, different trial sequences within a paradigm allow for the simultaneous assessment of multiple cognitive skills (e.g., executive function skills and processing speed). We define each construct, summarize its significance for understanding developmental outcomes, discuss the feasibility of its assessment throughout development, and present our plan for measuring specific skills at different ages. Given the need for well-validated, direct behavioral measures of cognition that can be used in large-scale longitudinal studies, especially from birth to age 3 years, we also initiated three projects focused on the development of new measures.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fped.2021.603126DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8200393PMC
May 2021

Spatial-numerical associations from a novel paradigm support the mental number line account.

Q J Exp Psychol (Hove) 2021 Oct 12;74(10):1829-1840. Epub 2021 Apr 12.

Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.

Multiple tasks have been used to demonstrate the relation between numbers and space. The classic interpretation of these directional spatial-numerical associations (d-SNAs) is that they are the product of a mental number line (MNL), in which numerical magnitude is intrinsically associated with spatial position. The alternative account is that d-SNAs reflect task demands, such as explicit numerical judgements and/or categorical responses. In the novel "Where was The Number?" task, no explicit numerical judgements were made. Participants were simply required to reproduce the location of a numeral within a rectangular space. Using a between-subject design, we found that numbers, but not letters, biased participants' responses along the horizontal dimension, such that larger numbers were placed more rightward than smaller numbers, even when participants completed a concurrent verbal working memory task. These findings are consistent with the MNL account, such that numbers specifically are inherently left-to-right oriented in Western participants.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/17470218211008733DOI Listing
October 2021

The relative salience of numerical and non-numerical dimensions shifts over development: A re-analysis of.

Cognition 2021 05 29;210:104610. Epub 2021 Jan 29.

Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA. Electronic address:

Visual displays of objects include information about number and other magnitudes such as cumulative surface area. Despite the confluence of cues, a prevalent view is that number is uniquely salient within multidimensional stimuli. Consistent with this view, Tomlinson et al. (2020) report that, in addition to greater acuity for number than area among both children and adults, number biases area judgments more than the reverse, at least in childhood. However, a failure to consider perceived area, undermines these results. To address this concern, we used an index of perceived area when assessing acuity and bias of number and area. In this context, number and area were comparable in acuity among children and adults. Bias, however, differed across development. Although adults showed greater bias of number on area judgments than the reverse, children experienced greater area bias on number judgments. Thus, contra Tomlinson et al., when differences in mathematical and perceived area are accounted for, area is more salient than number early in development. However, number does become the more salient dimension by adulthood, suggesting a role for experience with symbolic number and education in directing attention towards number within multidimensional visual stimuli.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104610DOI Listing
May 2021

The Future of Women in Psychological Science.

Perspect Psychol Sci 2021 05 9;16(3):483-516. Epub 2020 Sep 9.

Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley.

There has been extensive discussion about gender gaps in representation and career advancement in the sciences. However, psychological science itself has yet to be the focus of discussion or systematic review, despite our field's investment in questions of equity, status, well-being, gender bias, and gender disparities. In the present article, we consider 10 topics relevant for women's career advancement in psychological science. We focus on issues that have been the subject of empirical study, discuss relevant evidence within and outside of psychological science, and draw on established psychological theory and social-science research to begin to chart a path forward. We hope that better understanding of these issues within the field will shed light on areas of existing gender gaps in the discipline and areas where positive change has happened, and spark conversation within our field about how to create lasting change to mitigate remaining gender differences in psychological science.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1745691620952789DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8114333PMC
May 2021

Numerosity and cumulative surface area are perceived holistically as integral dimensions.

J Exp Psychol Gen 2021 Jan 22;150(1):145-156. Epub 2020 Jun 22.

Department of Psychology.

Human and nonhuman animals have a remarkable capacity to rapidly estimate the quantity of objects in the environment. The dominant view of this ability posits an abstract numerosity code, uncontaminated by nonnumerical visual information. The present study provides novel evidence in contradiction to this view by demonstrating that number and cumulative surface area are perceived holistically, classically known as . Whether assessed explicitly (Experiment 1) or implicitly (Experiment 2), perceived similarity for dot arrays that varied parametrically in number and cumulative area was best modeled by Euclidean, as opposed to city-block, distance within the stimulus space, comparable to other integral dimensions (brightness/saturation and radial frequency components) but different from separable dimensions (shape/color and brightness/size). Moreover, Euclidean distance remained the best-performing model, even when compared to models that controlled for other magnitude properties (e.g., density) or image similarity. These findings suggest that numerosity perception entails the obligatory processing of nonnumerical magnitude. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xge0000874DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7752852PMC
January 2021

No Participant Left Behind: Conducting Science During COVID-19.

Trends Cogn Sci 2020 08 11;24(8):583-584. Epub 2020 May 11.

Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.

Cognitive scientists have ramped up online testing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although research conducted online solves the problem of data collection, the paucity of internet access among low-income and minority communities may reduce the diversity of study samples, and thus have an impact on the generalizability of scientific findings.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2020.05.003DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7211671PMC
August 2020

Canine sense of quantity: evidence for numerical ratio-dependent activation in parietotemporal cortex.

Biol Lett 2019 12 18;15(12):20190666. Epub 2019 Dec 18.

Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.

The approximate number system (ANS), which supports the rapid estimation of quantity, emerges early in human development and is widespread across species. Neural evidence from both human and non-human primates suggests the parietal cortex as a primary locus of numerical estimation, but it is unclear whether the numerical competencies observed across non-primate species are subserved by similar neural mechanisms. Moreover, because studies with non-human animals typically involve extensive training, little is known about the spontaneous numerical capacities of non-human animals. To address these questions, we examined the neural underpinnings of number perception using awake canine functional magnetic resonance imaging. Dogs passively viewed dot arrays that varied in ratio and, critically, received no task-relevant training or exposure prior to testing. We found evidence of ratio-dependent activation, which is a key feature of the ANS, in canine parietotemporal cortex in the majority of dogs tested. This finding is suggestive of a neural mechanism for quantity perception that has been conserved across mammalian evolution.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2019.0666DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6936025PMC
December 2019

Does 1 + 1 = 2nd? The relations between children's understanding of ordinal position and their arithmetic performance.

J Exp Child Psychol 2019 11 25;187:104651. Epub 2019 Jul 25.

Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA. Electronic address:

The current study examined the relations between 5- and 6-year-olds' understanding of ordinality and their mathematical competence. We focused specifically on "positional operations," a property of ordinality not contingent on magnitude, in an effort to better understand the unique contributions of position-based ordinality to math development. Our findings revealed that two types of positional operations-the ability to execute representational movement along letter sequences and the ability to update ordinal positions after item insertion or removal-predicted children's arithmetic performance. Nevertheless, these positional operations did not mediate the relation between magnitude processing (as measured by the acuity of the approximate number system) and arithmetic performance. Taken together, these findings suggest a unique role for positional ordinality in math development. We suggest that positional ordinality may aid children in their mental organization of number symbols, which may facilitate solving arithmetic computations and may support the development of novel numerical concepts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2019.06.004DOI Listing
November 2019

Skeletal descriptions of shape provide unique perceptual information for object recognition.

Sci Rep 2019 06 27;9(1):9359. Epub 2019 Jun 27.

Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, USA.

With seemingly little effort, humans can both identify an object across large changes in orientation and extend category membership to novel exemplars. Although researchers argue that object shape is crucial in these cases, there are open questions as to how shape is represented for object recognition. Here we tested whether the human visual system incorporates a three-dimensional skeletal descriptor of shape to determine an object's identity. Skeletal models not only provide a compact description of an object's global shape structure, but also provide a quantitative metric by which to compare the visual similarity between shapes. Our results showed that a model of skeletal similarity explained the greatest amount of variance in participants' object dissimilarity judgments when compared with other computational models of visual similarity (Experiment 1). Moreover, parametric changes to an object's skeleton led to proportional changes in perceived similarity, even when controlling for another model of structure (Experiment 2). Importantly, participants preferentially categorized objects by their skeletons across changes to local shape contours and non-accidental properties (Experiment 3). Our findings highlight the importance of skeletal structure in vision, not only as a shape descriptor, but also as a diagnostic cue of object identity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-45268-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6597715PMC
June 2019

Skeletal representations of shape in human vision: Evidence for a pruned medial axis model.

J Vis 2019 06;19(6)

Emory University, Psychology, Atlanta, GA, USA.

A representation of shape that is low dimensional and stable across minor disruptions is critical for object recognition. Computer vision research suggests that such a representation can be supported by the medial axis-a computational model for extracting a shape's internal skeleton. However, few studies have shown evidence of medial axis processing in humans, and even fewer have examined how the medial axis is extracted in the presence of disruptive contours. Here, we tested whether human skeletal representations of shape reflect the medial axis transform (MAT), a computation sensitive to all available contours, or a pruned medial axis, which ignores contours that may be considered "noise." Across three experiments, participants (N = 2062) were shown complete, perturbed, or illusory two-dimensional shapes on a tablet computer and were asked to tap the shapes anywhere once. When directly compared with another viable model of shape perception (based on principal axes), participants' collective responses were better fit by the medial axis, and a direct test of boundary avoidance suggested that this result was not likely because of a task-specific cognitive strategy (Experiment 1). Moreover, participants' responses reflected a pruned computation in shapes with small or large internal or external perturbations (Experiment 2) and under conditions of illusory contours (Experiment 3). These findings extend previous work by suggesting that humans extract a relatively stable medial axis of shapes. A relatively stable skeletal representation, reflected by a pruned model, may be well equipped to support real-world shape perception and object recognition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1167/19.6.6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6894409PMC
June 2019

Does training mental rotation transfer to gains in mathematical competence? Assessment of an at-home visuospatial intervention.

Psychol Res 2020 Oct 29;84(7):2000-2017. Epub 2019 May 29.

Department of Psychology, Emory University, 36 Eagle Row, Atlanta, GA, 30322, USA.

The current study examined whether the effect of spatial training transfers to the math domain. Sixty-two 6- and 7-year-olds completed an at-home 1-week online training intervention. The spatial-training group received mental rotation training, whereas the active control group received literacy training in a format that matched the spatial training. Results revealed near transfer of mental rotation ability in the spatial-training group. More importantly, there was also far transfer to canonical arithmetic problems, such that children in the spatial-training group performed better on these math problems than children in the control group. Such far transfer could not be attributed to general cognitive improvement, since no improvement was observed for non-symbolic quantity processing, verbal working memory (WM), or language ability following spatial training. Spatial training may have benefitted symbolic arithmetic performance by improving visualization ability, access to the mental number line, and/or increasing the capacity of visuospatial WM.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00426-019-01202-5DOI Listing
October 2020

Is Emotional Magnitude Spatialized? A Further Investigation.

Cogn Sci 2019 04;43(4):e12727

Department of Psychology, Emory University.

Accumulating evidence suggests that different magnitudes (e.g., number, size, and duration) are spatialized in the mind according to a common left-right metric, consistent with a generalized system for representing magnitude. A previous study conducted by two of us (Holmes & Lourenco, ) provided evidence that this metric extends to the processing of emotional magnitude, or the intensity of emotion expressed in faces. Recently, however, Pitt and Casasanto () showed that the earlier effects may have been driven by a left-right mapping of mouth size rather than emotional magnitude, and they found no evidence for an emotional magnitude mapping when using words as stimuli. Here, we report two new experiments that further examine these conclusions. In Experiment 1, using face stimuli with mouths occluded, we replicate the original finding: Less emotional faces were associated with the left and more emotional faces with the right. However, we also find that people can reliably infer the sizes of the occluded mouths, and that these inferred mouth sizes can explain the observed left-right mapping. In Experiment 2, we show that comparative judgments of emotional words yield a left-right mapping of emotional magnitude not attributable to stimulus confounds. Based on these findings, we concur with Pitt and Casasanto that faces pose challenges for isolating the forces driving spatialization, but we suggest that emotional magnitude, when assessed using unconfounded stimuli in a sufficiently sensitive task, may indeed be spatialized as originally proposed. Suggestions for further research on the spatialization of emotional magnitude are discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cogs.12727DOI Listing
April 2019

The development of gender differences in spatial reasoning: A meta-analytic review.

Psychol Bull 2019 06 11;145(6):537-565. Epub 2019 Apr 11.

Department of Psychology.

Gender differences in spatial aptitude are well established by adulthood, particularly when measured by tasks that require the mental rotation of objects (Linn & Petersen, 1985; Voyer, Voyer, & Bryden, 1995). Although the male advantage in mental rotation performance represents one of the most robust gender differences in adult cognition, the developmental trajectory of this male advantage remains a topic of considerable debate. To address this debate, we meta-analyzed 303 effect sizes pertaining to gender differences in mental rotation performance among 30,613 children and adolescents. We found significant developmental change in the magnitude of the gender difference: A small male advantage in mental rotation performance first emerged during childhood and then subsequently increased with age, reaching a moderate effect size during adolescence. Procedural factors, including task and stimulus characteristics, also accounted for variability in reported gender differences, even when controlling for the effect of age. These results demonstrate that both age and procedural characteristics moderate the magnitude of the gender difference in mental rotation throughout development. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/bul0000191DOI Listing
June 2019

Cross-magnitude interactions across development: Longitudinal evidence for a general magnitude system.

Dev Sci 2019 01 8;22(1):e12707. Epub 2018 Aug 8.

Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.

There is general agreement that humans represent numerical, spatial, and temporal magnitudes from early in development. However, there is disagreement about whether different magnitudes converge within a general magnitude system and whether this system supports behavioral demonstrations of cross-magnitude interactions at different developmental time points. Using a longitudinal design, we found a relation between children's cross-magnitude interactions assessed at two developmental time points with different behavioral measures. More specifically, stronger cross-magnitude interactions in infancy (M = 9.3 months) predicted a stronger cross-magnitude congruity effect at preschool age (M = 44.2 months), even when controlling for performance on measures of inhibitory control, analogical reasoning, and verbal competence at preschool age. The results suggest a common mechanism for cross-magnitude interactions at different points in development as well as stability of the underlying individual differences. We argue that this mechanism reflects a nonverbal general magnitude system that is operational early in life and that displays continuity from infancy to preschool age.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/desc.12707DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6848978PMC
January 2019

The Developing Mental Number Line: Does Its Directionality Relate to 5- to 7-Year-Old Children's Mathematical Abilities?

Front Psychol 2018 6;9:1142. Epub 2018 Jul 6.

Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, United States.

Spatial representations of number, such as a left-to-right oriented mental number line, are well documented in Western culture. Yet, the functional significance of such a representation remains unclear. To test the prominent hypothesis that a mental number line may support mathematical development, we examined the relation between spatial-numerical associations (SNAs) and math proficiency in 5- to 7-year-old children. We found evidence of SNAs with two tasks: a non-symbolic magnitude comparison task, and a symbolic "Where was the number?" (WTN) task. Further, we found a significant correlation between these two tasks, demonstrating convergent validity of the directional mental number line across numerical format. Although there were no significant correlations between children's SNAs on the WTN task and math ability, children's SNAs on the magnitude comparison task were negatively correlated with their performance on a measure of cross-modal arithmetic, suggesting that children with a stronger left-to-right oriented mental number line were less competent at cross-modal arithmetic, an effect that held when controlling for age and a set of general cognitive abilities. Despite some evidence for a negative relation between SNAs and math ability in adulthood, we argue that the effect here may reflect task demands specific to the magnitude comparison task, not necessarily an impediment of the mental number line to math performance. We conclude with a discussion of the different properties that characterize a mental number line and how these different properties may relate to mathematical ability.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01142DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6043688PMC
July 2018

What is peripersonal space? An examination of unresolved empirical issues and emerging findings.

Wiley Interdiscip Rev Cogn Sci 2018 Nov 9;9(6):e1472. Epub 2018 Jul 9.

Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.

Findings from diverse fields of study, including neuroscience, psychology, zoology, and sociology, demonstrate that human and non-human primates maintain a representation of the space immediately surrounding the body, known as peripersonal space (PPS). However, progress in this field has been hampered by the lack of an agreed upon definition of PPS. Since the beginning of its formal study, scientists have argued that PPS plays a crucial role in both defensive and non-defensive actions. Yet consensus is lacking about the cognitive and neural instantiation of these functions. In particular, researchers have begun to ask whether a single, unified system of spatial-attentional resources supports both the defensive and non-defensive functions of PPS or, rather, whether there are multiple, independent systems. Moreover, there are open questions about the specificity of PPS. For example: Does PPS dissociate from other well-known phenomena such as personal space and the body schema? Finally, emerging research has brought attention to important questions about individual differences in the flexibility of PPS and the distribution of PPS in front compared to behind the body. In this advanced review, we shed light on questions about the nature of PPS, offering answers when the research permits or providing recommendations for achieving answers in future research. In so doing, we lay the groundwork for a comprehensive definition of PPS. This article is categorized under: Cognitive Biology > Evolutionary Roots of Cognition Psychology > Attention Psychology > Perception and Psychophysics Neuroscience > Plasticity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/wcs.1472DOI Listing
November 2018

Right idea, wrong magnitude system.

Behav Brain Sci 2017 01;40:e177

Department of Psychology,Colorado College,Colorado Springs,CO

Leibovich et al. claim that number representations are non-existent early in life and that the associations between number and continuous magnitudes reside in stimulus confounds. We challenge both claims - positing, instead, that number is represented independently of continuous magnitudes already in infancy, but is nonetheless more deeply connected to other magnitudes through adulthood than acknowledged by the "sense of magnitude" theory.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X16002156DOI Listing
January 2017

Pupillometry reveals the physiological underpinnings of the aversion to holes.

PeerJ 2018 4;6:e4185. Epub 2018 Jan 4.

Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, United States of America.

An unusual, but common, aversion to images with clusters of holes is known as trypophobia. Recent research suggests that trypophobic reactions are caused by visual spectral properties also present in aversive images of evolutionary threatening animals (e.g., snakes and spiders). However, despite similar spectral properties, it remains unknown whether there is a shared emotional response to holes and threatening animals. Whereas snakes and spiders are known to elicit a fear reaction, associated with the sympathetic nervous system, anecdotal reports from self-described trypophobes suggest reactions more consistent with disgust, which is associated with activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. Here we used pupillometry in a novel attempt to uncover the distinct emotional response associated with a trypophobic response to holes. Across two experiments, images of holes elicited greater constriction compared to images of threatening animals and neutral images. Moreover, this effect held when controlling for level of arousal and accounting for the pupil grating response. This pattern of pupillary response is consistent with involvement of the parasympathetic nervous system and suggests a disgust, not a fear, response to images of holes. Although general aversion may be rooted in shared visual-spectral properties, we propose that the specific emotion is determined by cognitive appraisal of the distinct image content.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7717/peerj.4185DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5756615PMC
January 2018

Developmental stability in gender-typed preferences between infancy and preschool age.

Dev Psychol 2018 04 20;54(4):613-620. Epub 2017 Nov 20.

Department of Psychology.

Infants exhibit visual preferences for gender-typed objects (e.g., dolls, toy vehicles) that parallel the gender-typed play preferences of preschool-aged children, but the developmental stability of individual differences in early emerging gender-typed preferences has not yet been characterized. In the present study, we examined the longitudinal association between infants' (N = 51) performance on an object-preference task, administered between 6 and 13 months of age, and their play preferences at 4 years of age. Greater visual interest in a toy truck relative to a doll in infancy predicted significantly greater male-typical toy and activity preferences (e.g., play with vehicles, videogames) at age 4. These findings suggest that gender-typed object preferences present during the 1st year of life may represent the developmental precursors of gender-typed play preferences observed later in childhood. (PsycINFO Database Record
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dev0000468DOI Listing
April 2018

Action ability modulates time-to-collision judgments.

Exp Brain Res 2017 09 12;235(9):2729-2739. Epub 2017 Jun 12.

Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London, London, UK.

Time-to-collision (TTC) underestimation has been interpreted as an adaptive response that allows observers to have more time to engage in a defensive behaviour. This bias seems, therefore, strongly linked to action preparation. There is evidence that the observer's physical fitness modulates the underestimation effect so that people who need more time to react (i.e. those with less physical fitness) show a stronger underestimation effect. Here we investigated whether this bias is influenced by the momentary action capability of the observers. In the first experiment, participants estimated the time-to-collision of threatening or non-threatening stimuli while being mildly immobilized (with a chin rest) or while standing freely. Having reduced the possibility of movement led participants to show more underestimation of the approaching stimuli. However, this effect was not stronger for threatening relative to non-threatening stimuli. The effect of the action capability found in the first experiment could be interpreted as an expansion of peripersonal space (PPS). In the second experiment, we thus investigated the generality of this effect using an established paradigm to measure the size of peripersonal space. Participants bisected lines from different distances while in the chin rest or standing freely. The results replicated the classic left-to-right gradient in lateral spatial attention with increasing viewing distance, but no effect of immobilization was found. The manipulation of the momentary action capability of the observers influenced the participants' performance in the TTC task but not in the line bisection task. These results are discussed in relation to the different functions of PPS.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00221-017-5008-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5550546PMC
September 2017

Individual Differences in the Flexibility of Peripersonal Space.

Exp Psychol 2017 Jan;64(1):49-55

1 Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.

The current study investigated individual differences in the flexibility of peripersonal space (i.e., representational space near the body), specifically in relation to trait claustrophobic fear (i.e., fear of suffocating or being physically restricted). Participants completed a line bisection task with either a laser pointer (Laser condition), allowing for a baseline measure of the size of one's peripersonal space, or a stick (Stick condition), which produces expansion of one's peripersonal space. Our results revealed that individuals high in claustrophobic fear had larger peripersonal spaces than those lower in claustrophobic fear, replicating previous research. We also found that, whereas individuals low in claustrophobic fear demonstrated the expected expansion of peripersonal space in the Stick condition, individuals high in claustrophobic fear showed less expansion, suggesting decreased flexibility. We discuss these findings in relation to the defensive function of peripersonal space and reduced attentional flexibility associated with trait anxieties.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1027/1618-3169/a000350DOI Listing
January 2017

The associations between space and order in numerical and non-numerical sequences.

Conscious Cogn 2016 10 28;45:124-134. Epub 2016 Aug 28.

Department of Psychology, Emory University, 36 Eagle Row, Atlanta, GA 30322, United States. Electronic address:

Spatial-numerical associations have been found across different studies, yet the basis for these associations remains debated. The current study employed an order judgment task to adjudicate between two competing accounts of such associations, namely the Mental Number Line (MNL) and Working Memory (WM) models. On this task, participants judged whether number pairs were in ascending or descending order. Whereas the MNL model predicts that ascending and descending orders should map onto opposite sides of space, the WM model predicts no such mapping. Moreover, we compared the spatial-order mapping for numerical and non-numerical sequences because the WM model predicts no difference in mapping. Across two experiments, we found consistent spatial mappings for numerical order along both horizontal and vertical axes, consistent with a MNL model. In contrast, we found no consistent mappings for letter sequences. These findings are discussed in the context of conflicting extant data related to these two models.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2016.08.013DOI Listing
October 2016

Spatial Processing in Infancy Predicts Both Spatial and Mathematical Aptitude in Childhood.

Psychol Sci 2016 10 20;27(10):1291-1298. Epub 2016 Aug 20.

Department of Psychology, Emory University.

Despite considerable interest in the role of spatial intelligence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) achievement, little is known about the ontogenetic origins of individual differences in spatial aptitude or their relation to later accomplishments in STEM disciplines. The current study provides evidence that spatial processes present in infancy predict interindividual variation in both spatial and mathematical competence later in development. Using a longitudinal design, we found that children's performance on a brief visuospatial change-detection task administered between 6 and 13 months of age was related to their spatial aptitude (i.e., mental-transformation skill) and mastery of symbolic-math concepts at 4 years of age, even when we controlled for general cognitive abilities and spatial memory. These results suggest that nascent spatial processes present in the first year of life not only act as precursors to later spatial intelligence but also predict math achievement during childhood.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0956797616655977DOI Listing
October 2016

A general magnitude system in human adults: Evidence from a subliminal priming paradigm.

Cortex 2016 08 26;81:93-103. Epub 2016 Apr 26.

Emory University, USA.

Despite general agreement that number and other magnitudes share analog format, there is disagreement about the extent to which representations of numerical and non-numerical magnitude recruit common cognitive and neural resources. Cross-dimensional interactions between number and other magnitudes on Stroop-like tasks have been taken as evidence for integration across magnitudes, but such effects are subject to alternative interpretations that allow for differentiated representations. Here we use a subliminal priming paradigm to test for interactions between different magnitudes (number and area) when one magnitude is not consciously detectable. Across two experiments, we first provide evidence for the feasibility of this paradigm by demonstrating that transfer occurs within the dimension of number; that is, symbolic numerals (Arabic digits) that were subliminally primed affected judgments of non-symbolic numerosities in target displays. Crucially, we also found transfer across magnitudes-from subliminally primed numerals to target displays of cumulative surface area whether participants made an ordinal judgment (i.e., "which array is larger in area?") or judged whether two arrays were the same or different in area. These findings suggest that representations of number and area are not fully differentiated. Moreover, they provide unique support for a general magnitude system that includes direct connections, or overlap, between the neural codes for numerical and non-numerical magnitudes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2016.04.013DOI Listing
August 2016

Gamble on gaze: Eye movements reflect the numerical value of blackjack hands.

Psychon Bull Rev 2016 12;23(6):1974-1981

Department of Psychology, Emory University, 36 Eagle Row, Atlanta, GA, 30322, USA.

We used a novel task-a blackjack game that naturally involves mental summation of numerical values-to investigate the role of attention in the mental number line (MNL) and to provide insight into the ecological validity of this representational format. By analyzing the spatial position of participants' spontaneous, task-irrelevant eye movements, we avoided some of the limitations of previous research on the MNL, in which the findings could be attributed to task-specific factors such as the use of overt spatial cues. In two experiments, we found that eye movements along the horizontal axis reflected the overall numerical value of participants' hands, with smaller-value hands eliciting fixations toward the left of the screen and larger-value hands eliciting fixations toward the right. This pattern held even when controlling for the number of cards in the hand and the value of the card most recently dealt-suggesting that the effects were driven by mental summation of values, not merely by the processing of serial order or individual numbers. Vertical eye movements, in contrast, reflected hand value less reliably. In showing that spontaneous eye movements along the horizontal axis track the magnitude of internally computed sums in an ecologically relevant task, our findings provide evidence for a dynamic MNL that supports magnitude-driven shifts of attention and that may be recruited during everyday forms of numerical reasoning.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13423-016-1055-0DOI Listing
December 2016

Representations of numerical and non-numerical magnitude both contribute to mathematical competence in children.

Dev Sci 2017 07 4;20(4). Epub 2016 May 4.

Department of Psychology, Emory University, USA.

A growing body of evidence suggests that non-symbolic representations of number, which humans share with nonhuman animals, are functionally related to uniquely human mathematical thought. Other research suggesting that numerical and non-numerical magnitudes not only share analog format but also form part of a general magnitude system raises questions about whether the non-symbolic basis of mathematical thinking is unique to numerical magnitude. Here we examined this issue in 5- and 6-year-old children using comparison tasks of non-symbolic number arrays and cumulative area as well as standardized tests of math competence. One set of findings revealed that scores on both magnitude comparison tasks were modulated by ratio, consistent with shared analog format. Moreover, scores on these tasks were moderately correlated, suggesting overlap in the precision of numerical and non-numerical magnitudes, as expected under a general magnitude system. Another set of findings revealed that the precision of both types of magnitude contributed shared and unique variance to the same math measures (e.g. calculation and geometry), after accounting for age and verbal competence. These findings argue against an exclusive role for non-symbolic number in supporting early mathematical understanding. Moreover, they suggest that mathematical understanding may be rooted in a general system of magnitude representation that is not specific to numerical magnitude but that also encompasses non-numerical magnitude.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/desc.12418DOI Listing
July 2017

Children and Adults Use Physical Size and Numerical Alliances in Third-Party Judgments of Dominance.

Front Psychol 2015 12;6:2050. Epub 2016 Jan 12.

Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta GA, USA.

Humans and other social animals interact regularly with conspecifics as part of affiliative groups. Many of these interactions are cooperative, but many others involve competition for resources. Competitive exchanges are often resolved on the basis of dominance relationships, with higher-ranking individuals receiving priority access to desired goods. Although no single cue can establish permanent dominance relationships, there are some cues that predict dominance fairly reliably across context. In the present study, we focused on two such cues relevant to competing groups: (i) the physical sizes of individual members, and (ii) their relative number. Using a social competition task, we examined whether, and how, preschool-aged children and adults used differences in physical size and numerical alliances to judge which of two groups should prevail in a competitive exchange for a desired object. These judgments were made when either physical size or number differed between groups (Experiment 1), and when both were available but pitted against each other (Experiments 1 and 2). Our findings revealed that by 3 years of age, humans use multiple perceptible cues in third-party judgments of dominance. Our findings also revealed that 3-year-olds, like adults, weighted these cues flexibly according to the additional factor of overall group size, with the physical sizes of individuals determining dominance in smaller groups (e.g., 2 vs. 4 characters) and the relative number of individuals determining dominance in larger groups (e.g., 15 vs. 30 characters). Taken together, our findings suggest that a basic formula for determining dominance in competitive exchanges, which weights physical size of individuals and numerical alliances as a function of overall group size, is available to young children and appears fairly stable through to adulthood.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.02050DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4710889PMC
January 2016

Transitive inference of social dominance by human infants.

Dev Sci 2017 03 16;20(2). Epub 2015 Nov 16.

Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, USA.

It is surprising that there are inconsistent findings of transitive inference (TI) in young infants given that non-linguistic species succeed on TI tests. To conclusively test for TI in infants, we developed a task within the social domain, with which infants are known to show sophistication. We familiarized 10- to 13-month-olds (M = 11.53 months) to a video of two dominance interactions between three puppets (bear > elephant; hippo > bear) consistent with a dominance hierarchy (hippo > bear > elephant; where '>' denotes greater dominance). Infants then viewed interactions between the two puppets that had not interacted during familiarization. These interactions were either congruent (hippo > elephant) or incongruent (elephant > hippo) with the inferred hierarchy. Consistent with TI, infants looked longer to incongruent than congruent displays. Control conditions ruled out the possibility that infants' expectations were based on stable behaviors specific to individual puppets rather than their inferred transitive dominance relations. We suggest that TI may be supported by phylogenetically ancient mechanisms of ordinal representation and visuospatial processing that come online early in human development.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/desc.12367DOI Listing
March 2017

The potentiation of geometry by features in human children: Evidence against modularity in the domain of navigation.

J Exp Child Psychol 2015 Dec 5;140:184-96. Epub 2015 Aug 5.

Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.

Accumulating evidence demonstrates that humans and other animals use geometric information, such as the shape of a surrounding space, to recover from disorientation. Less clear is to what extent human children integrate geometry with featural cues, such as the color of walls within an enclosed space, for this purpose. One view holds that reorientation relies on a cognitive module that processes geometric information independently of features. Here we provide evidence against this position by demonstrating that prior exposure to features within a kite-shaped space facilitated the use of geometry in 3- and 4-year-old children, as has been shown with nonhuman animals. Children were tasked with localizing a hidden object within a kite space following disorientation. Their performance was compared across two blocks of trials. We found that children first exposed to features (two black walls and two white walls) within the kite space (first block) were subsequently better at relying on the space's geometry to localize the target object (second block) than children not previously exposed to features. Follow-up experiments ruled out nonspecific effects of practice and attention. Not only did featural cues interact with the processing of geometry, but also features specifically enhanced children's representations of the space's geometry, which they used for reorientation. We suggest that this potentiation of geometry was possible because the placement of wall colors highlighted the major axis of the kite space, which may be critical for aiding the encoding of global shape or for maintaining the representation of a complex geometry in memory.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2015.07.007DOI Listing
December 2015
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