British Journal of Developmental Psychology

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Volume 33 Issue 1 (March 2015), Pages 1-157

Is there really a link between exact‐number knowledge and approximate number system acuity in young children? (pages 92-105)

Although everyone perceives approximate numerosities, some people make more accurate estimates than others. The accuracy of this estimation is called approximate number system (ANS) acuity. Recently, several studies have reported that individual differences in young children's ANS acuity are correlated with their knowledge of exact numbers such as the word ‘six’ (Mussolin et al., 2012, Trends Neurosci. Educ., 1, 21; Shusterman et al., 2011, Connecting early number word knowledge and approximate number system acuity; Wagner & Johnson, 2011, Cognition, 119, 10; see also Abreu‐Mendoza et al., 2013, Front. Psychol., 4, 1). This study argues that this correlation should not be trusted. It seems to be an artefact of the procedure used to assess ANS acuity in children. The correlation arises because (1) some experimental designs inadvertently allow children to answer correctly based on the size (rather than the number) of dots in the display and/or (2) young children with little exact‐number knowledge may not understand the phrase ‘more dots’ to mean numerically more. When the task is modified to make sure that children respond on the basis of numerosity, the correlation between ANS acuity and exact‐number knowledge in normally developing children disappears.

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