British Journal of Psychology

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Volume 110 Issue 1 (February 2019), Pages i-iv, 1-191

Number line estimation in highly math‐anxious individuals (pages 40-59)

In this study, we aimed to investigate the difficulties highly math‐anxious individuals (HMA) may face when having to estimate a number's position in a number line task. Twenty‐four HMA and 24 low math‐anxiety (LMA) individuals were presented with four lines with endpoints 0–100, 0–1,000, 0–100,000, and 267–367 on a computer monitor on which they had to mark the correct position of target numbers using the mouse. Although no differences were found between groups in the frequency of their best‐fit model, which was linear for all lines, the analysis of slopes and intercepts for the linear model showed that the two groups differed in performance on the less familiar lines (267–367 and 0–100,000). Lower values for the slope and higher values for the intercept were found in the HMA group, suggesting that they tended to overestimate small numbers and underestimate large numbers on these non‐familiar lines. Percentage absolute error analyses confirmed that HMA individuals were less accurate than their LMA counterparts on these lines, although no group differences were found in response time. These results indicate that math anxiety is related to worse performance only in the less familiar and more difficult number line tasks. Therefore, our data challenge the idea that HMA individuals might have less precise numerical representations and support the anxiety–complexity effect posited by Ashcraft and colleagues.

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