Emergence of number meaning from sensorimotor experiences

Elena Sixtus, Florian Krause, Oliver Lindemann, Martin H. Fischer, A sensorimotor perspective on numerical cognition, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 27, Issue 4, 2023, Pages 367-378 DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2023.01.002.

Numbers are present in every part of modern society and the human capacity to use numbers is unparalleled in other species. Understanding the mental and neural representations supporting this capacity is of central interest to cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and education. Embodied numerical cognition theory suggests that beyond the seemingly abstract symbols used to refer to numbers, their underlying meaning is deeply grounded in sensorimotor experiences, and that our specific understanding of numerical information is shaped by actions related to our fingers, egocentric space, and experiences with magnitudes in everyday life. We propose a sensorimotor perspective on numerical cognition in which number comprehension and numerical proficiency emerge from grounding three distinct numerical core concepts: magnitude, ordinality, and cardinality.

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