Developmental Science

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Volume 22 Issue 1 (January 2019), Pages

Cross‐magnitude interactions across development: Longitudinal evidence for a general magnitude system

Abstract There is general agreement that humans represent numerical, spatial, and temporal magnitudes from early in development. However, there is disagreement about whether different magnitudes converge within a general magnitude system and whether this system supports behavioral demonstrations of cross‐magnitude interactions at different developmental time points. Using a longitudinal design, we found a relation between children's cross‐magnitude interactions assessed at two developmental time points with different behavioral measures. More specifically, stronger cross‐magnitude interactions in infancy (M = 9.3 months) predicted a stronger cross‐magnitude congruity effect at preschool age (M = 44.2 months), even when controlling for performance on measures of inhibitory control, analogical reasoning, and verbal competence at preschool age. The results suggest a common mechanism for cross‐magnitude interactions at different points in development as well as stability of the underlying individual differences. We argue that this mechanism reflects a nonverbal general magnitude system that is operational early in life and that displays continuity from infancy to preschool age.

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