Tag Archives: Numbers In The Brain

On the integer numbers in the brain

Susan Carey, David Barner, Ontogenetic Origins of Human Integer Representations. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 23, Issue 10, 2019, Pages 823-835, DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2019.07.004.

Do children learn number words by associating them with perceptual magnitudes? Recent studies argue that approximate numerical magnitudes play a foundational role in the development of integer concepts. Against this, we argue that approximate number representations fail both empirically and in principle to provide the content required of integer concepts. Instead, we suggest that children\u2019s understanding of integer concepts proceeds in two phases. In the first phase, children learn small exact number word meanings by associating words with small sets. In the second phase, children learn the meanings of larger number words by mastering the logic of exact counting algorithms, which implement the successor function and Hume\u2019s principle (that one-to-one correspondence guarantees exact equality). In neither phase do approximate number representations play a foundational role.

Numerosity in animals (insects)

Martin Giurfa, An Insect\u2019s Sense of Number. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 23, Issue 9, 2019, Pages 720-722, DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2019.06.010.

Recent studies revealed numerosity judgments in bees, which include the concept of zero, subtraction and addition, and matching symbols to numbers. Despite their distant origins, bees and vertebrates share similarities in their numeric competences, thus suggesting that numerosity is evolutionary conserved and can be implemented in miniature brains without neocortex.

On numerical cognition and the inexistence of an innate concept of number but the existence of an innate concept of quantity

Tom Verguts, Qi Chen, Numerical Cognition: Learning Binds Biology to Culture, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 21, Issue 12, 2017, Pages 913-914, DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2017.09.004.

First, we address the issue of which quantity representations are innate. Second, we consider the role of the number list, whose characteristics are no doubt highly culturally dependent.

Evidences that the human brain has quantifying properties -i.e., ability to discriminate between sets of different sizes- as a result of evolution, but that numerical cognition is a result of culture

Rafael E. Núñez, Is There Really an Evolved Capacity for Number?, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 21, Issue 6, June 2017, Pages 409-424, ISSN 1364-6613, DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2017.03.005.

Humans and other species have biologically endowed abilities for discriminating quantities. A widely accepted view sees such abilities as an evolved capacity specific for number and arithmetic. This view, however, is based on an implicit teleological rationale, builds on inaccurate conceptions of biological evolution, downplays human data from non-industrialized cultures, overinterprets results from trained animals, and is enabled by loose terminology that facilitates teleological argumentation. A distinction between quantical (e.g., quantity discrimination) and numerical (exact, symbolic) cognition is needed: quantical cognition provides biologically evolved preconditions for numerical cognition but it does not scale up to number and arithmetic, which require cultural mediation. The argument has implications for debates about the origins of other special capacities – geometry, music, art, and language.

Evidences that the brain encodes numbers on an internal continous line and that the zero value is also represented

Luca Rinaldi, Luisa Girelli, A Place for Zero in the Brain, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 20, Issue 8, 2016, Pages 563-564, ISSN 1364-6613, DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2016.06.006.

It has long been thought that the primary cognitive and neural systems responsible for processing numerosities are not predisposed to encode empty sets (i.e., numerosity zero). A new study challenges this view by demonstrating that zero is translated into an abstract quantity along the numerical continuum by the primate parietofrontal magnitude system.