British Journal of Developmental Psychology

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Volume 36 Issue 4 (November 2018), Pages i-iv, 521-678

Intergenerational associations of the approximate number system in toddlers and their parents (pages 521-539)

From birth, humans are able to discriminate quantities using the approximate number system (ANS). However, previous methods have only been suitable to examine ANS functioning in infancy and older children. The goals of this study were twofold: first, to modify an existing method of assessing ANS functioning for toddlerhood; and second, to investigate individual differences in toddlers’ ANS performance by examining correlations with their parents’ ANS acuity. Using a preferential looking paradigm, we found that 1‐ to 3‐year‐olds (N = 46) looked significantly longer to numerically changing images compared to numerically constant ones suggesting that the paradigm is a suitable measure of ANS functioning in toddlerhood. Furthermore, we found a positive relation between toddlers’ ANS performance and that of their parents (assessed using a non‐symbolic number comparison task) independent of children's vocabulary or parents’ perceived math ability or preference for math. These findings are consistent with a specific intergenerational transmission of the ANS.

What is already known on this subject?

  • Past methods used to examine ANS functioning were only suitable for infants and older children.
  • Little research has examined sources underlying individual difference in ANS acuity.

What does this study add?

  • We developed a preferential looking task to assess ANS functioning in toddlerhood.
  • Individual differences in toddlers’ ANS functioning are correlated with their parents’ ANS acuity.

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