kitchen table math, the sequel: more on the mental number line

Monday, January 2, 2012

more on the mental number line

in the Wall Street Journal:
Body posture can influence how we estimate such things as age and size, a study shows.

Thirty-three undergraduates stood on a Wii Balance Board, a videogame-system accessory. Researchers surreptitiously manipulated the subjects' stances, slightly tilting them, though an onscreen measure misled the students into thinking they were evenly balanced.

In each stance, students answered 13 questions, including the height of the Eiffel Tower, the size of the Netherlands and the life expectancy of a parrot. On average, participants gave smaller estimates when they leaned left than when they stood straight or leaned right—stances producing virtually identical results.

"Mental-number-line theory" accounted for the finding, the researchers said. We envision numbers as they appear on a ruler, rising from left to right. Leaning left nudged estimates lower.

"Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller: Posture-Modulated Estimation," Anita Eerland, Tulio M. Guadalupe and Rolf A. Zwaan, Psychological Science (December).
Christopher Shea | Week in Ideas
number line posts


Luke said...

Ha! That's amazing [smile].


English vocabulary said...

If you close your eyes and imagine the numbers 1 through 9 on a line, what does the image that appears in your head look like? Most people will say that they imagine a horizontal line, with 1 on the left, and an orderly progression to 9 on the right. Naturally, this finding could be an effect of cultural convention in societies that use arabic numerals, but research indicates that there may be more to it than that.