Psychological Research

, Volume 83, Issue 5, pp 885–893 | Cite as

Spatial–numerical associations in first-graders: evidence from a manual-pointing task

  • Wenke MöhringEmail author
  • Masami Ishihara
  • Jacqueline Curiger
  • Andrea Frick
Original Article


The current study investigated whether children’s mental representations of numbers are organized spatially at the onset of formal schooling using a manual-pointing task. First-graders (N = 77) saw four numbers (1, 3, 7, 9) presented randomly in four spatial positions (extreme left, left, right, extreme right) on a touch screen. In a Go/No-Go task, children were asked to press the appearing numbers as fast and accurately as possible, but only when the numbers were “smaller” (or “larger” in a different block) than 5. Results indicated that response times were significantly affected by the spatial position in which the different numbers were presented. Response times for small numbers (1 and 3) increased and response times for large numbers (7 and 9) decreased, the more they were presented towards the right side of the screen. These findings suggested that first-graders spontaneously employed a spatial number representation that was oriented from left to right. Furthermore, this left-to-right organization could not be easily changed by priming a different direction. Our findings indicate that even young children map numbers continuously onto space.


Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in the current study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wenke Möhring
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Masami Ishihara
    • 2
  • Jacqueline Curiger
    • 1
  • Andrea Frick
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of FribourgFribourgSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Human SciencesTokyo Metropolitan UniversityTokyoJapan
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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