Set size and culture influence children’s attention to number

Lisa Cantrell, Megumi Kuwabara, Linda B. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Much research evidences a system in adults and young children for approximately representing quantity. Here we provide evidence that the bias to attend to discrete quantity versus other dimensions may be mediated by set size and culture. Preschool-age English-speaking children in the United States and Japanese-speaking children in Japan were tested in a match-to-sample task where number was pitted against cumulative surface area in both large and small numerical set comparisons. Results showed that children from both cultures were biased to attend to the number of items for small sets. Large set responses also showed a general attention to number when ratio difficulty was easy. However, relative to the responses for small sets, attention to number decreased for both groups; moreover, both U.S. and Japanese children showed a significant bias to attend to total amount for difficult numerical ratio distances, although Japanese children shifted attention to total area at relatively smaller set sizes than U.S. children. These results add to our growing understanding of how quantity is represented and how such representation is influenced by context—both cultural and perceptual.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-37
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes

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