Does Number Perception Cause Automatic Shifts of Spatial Attention? A Study of the Att-SNARC Effect in Numbers and Chinese Months

Dexian He, Xianyou He, Tingting Zhao, Jing Wang, Longzhao Li, Max Louwerse

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The Attentional Spatial Numerical Association of Response Codes (Att-SNARC) effect has shown that number perception induces shifts in spatial attention (Fischer et al., 2003; Dodd et al., 2008). However, many replications were attempted and they often failed. In the present study, we investigated whether the Att-SNARC effect can be found for numbers in different notations: months in Arabic form, Simplified Chinese form, Traditional Chinese form (includes numerical ordinal information) and in Chinese non-numerical form (an ordinal sequence). By varying the cognitive task, we also examined whether the effect is a consequence of automatic perceptual processing. In Experiment 1, an Att-SNARC effect was observed for numbers regardless of notation. In Experiment 2 (order-irrelevant task) and Experiment 3 (order-relevant task), the effect was also found consistently for months in Arabic form, Simplified Chinese form, and Traditional Chinese form. This effect was not observed for months in Chinese non-numerical form in Experiment 3. These results show that number and numerical sequence perception automatically causes a spatial shift of attention. Our study provides positive evidence for the Att-SNARC effect and indicates that the effect can generalize to other numerical ordinal sequences that contain numeric information.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2020


  • SNARC effect
  • attention
  • mental number line
  • number processing
  • ordinal sequences

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