Journal of Experimental Child Psychology vol:111 issue:4 pages:671-680
In a recent study, Gevers and colleagues (2010) showed that the SNARC (Spatial Numerical Association of Response Codes) effect in adults does not only result from spatial coding of magnitude (e.g., the mental number line hypothesis), but also from verbal coding. Because children are surrounded by rulers, number lines, etc. in the classroom, it is intuitively appealing to assume that they first use their mental number line to represent numbers and that only later in development a verbal recoding of magnitude information takes place. However, this hypothesis has never been tested. The goal of the present study was to define the developmental pattern of both accounts (spatial and verbal) in explaining the SNARC effect. To this end, 9- and 11-year old children were tested in a magnitude comparison task. Surprisingly, clear and robust evidence for verbal coding of magnitude information was observed in both age groups. Our results imply that the ability to use verbal coding of magnitude information is robustly present early in formal schooling.