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Automaticity in processing spatial-numerical associations: Evidence from a perceptual orientation judgment task of Arabic digits in frames


Human adults are faster to respond to small/large numerals with their left/right hand when they judge the parity of numerals, which is known as the SNARC (spatial-numerical association of response codes) effect. It has been proposed that the size of the SNARC effect depends on response latencies. The current study introduced a perceptual orientation task, where participants were asked to judge the orientation of a digit or a frame surrounding the digit. The present study first confirmed the SNARC effect with native Chinese speakers (Experiment 1) using a parity task, and then examined whether the emergence and size of the SNARC effect depended on the response latencies (Experiments 2, 3, and 4) using a perceptual orientation judgment task. Our results suggested that (a) the automatic processing of response-related numerical-spatial information occurred with Chinese-speaking participants in the parity task; (b) the SNARC effect was also found when the task did not require semantic access; and (c) the size of the effect depended on the processing speed of the task-relevant dimension. Finally, we proposed an underlying mechanism to explain the SNARC effect in the perceptual orientation judgment task.

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