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Analogue Magnitudes and Knower-Levels: Re-Visiting the Variability Argument


What cognitive system(s) initially provide the numerical content that defines the cardinal number words for young children? Le Corre and Carey (2007) argued that the answer cannot be the analogue magnitude system. Here we reexamine the most powerful of their arguments, which concerned the system’s signature scalar variability (the standard deviation of answers grows linearly with the mean). Using adult data, we explore a nuance of this signature: that while it is certainly true of the continuous, underlying activation in the brain, it may not always be true of the number-word responses that people produce. With this in mind, we re-examine the aforementioned variability argument; contrary to Le Corre and Carey, we conclude that young children’s estimates of small set sizes (up to and including their number-knower-level) do show scalar variability. 

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