The Role of Culture and Language for Numerical Cognition

Andrea BenderUniversity of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
Sieghard BellerUniversity of Bergen, Norway
Karenleigh A. OvermannUniversity of Oxford
Caleb EverettUniversity of Miami
Deanna GagneUniversity of Connecticut
Marie CoppolaUniversity of Connecticut
Stephen ChrisomalisWayne State University

Abstract

Numeracy is a paradigmatic example of the close dovetailing of culture, language, and cognition. The two systems central to the numerical competence — one for the exact representation of small numbers and one for the approximation of larger numbers — are relatively old in phylogenetic terms and available almost from birth. Together, they provide the basis for the specifically human ability to also assess larger numbers in an exact manner (Dehaene, 1997; Feigenson et al., 2004). Yet, while several scholars consider numeracy a core domain of knowledge (Spelke & Kinzler, 2007), its full development seems to presuppose cultural and linguistic input in the form of counting sequences, as indicated by studies on two Amazonian groups (Gordon, 2004; Pica et al., 2004). If, however, number representations are absent from both culture and language, their relative relevance for numerical cognition cannot be assessed unambiguously. This symposium attempts to advance this field of research, which is increasingly recognized as one of prime interest for cognitive science. It brings together researchers, who have contributed considerably to the expanding knowledge on numerical cognition.

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