Date of Award

5-2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

College/School

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Department/Program

Psychology

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Yoav Arieh

Committee Member

Jennifer Pardo

Committee Member

Meredyth Krych-Appelbaum

Abstract

In the SNARC (Spatial Numeric Association of Response Codes) effect relatively small numbers are processed faster on the left hand side and relatively large numbers are processed faster on the right hand side, implying a spatial mental representation of numbers that might be conceptualized as a mental number line (Dehaene, Bossini, & Giraux, 1993). Walsh (2003) proposed that time, space, and quantity are part of a generalized cognitive system that processes different facets of magnitude. If this is true, we investigated whether the SNARC-like effect reported with magnitude of circle is a strong or weak automatic process. In the case of strong automatic activation the size of the SNARC-like effect will not vary with the changes in stimulus distribution; whereas, in weak automatic activation, the size of the SNARC-like effect will be inversely related to the proportion of incongruent events in the set. In the study, 60 participants classified the color of circles that varied in 6 sizes and the ratios of incongruent trials were manipulated in three experimental blocks: 1) balanced distribution: congruent and incongruent stimuli will be presented at same frequency, 2) more incongruent: most of the stimuli will represent an incongruent situation, and 3) more congruent: most of the stimuli will represent a congruent situation. Overall, the main finding of the study was that congruent stimuli were on average faster to respond to in the more congruent block whereas incongruent stimuli were faster to respond to in the more incongruent block, n other words, it seems that the SNARC-like effect emerged only in the more congruent block only and was reversed in direction in the more incongruent block. These findings indicate the functional plasticity of our cognitive architecture and how it can adapt itself to changing context in order to maximize performance.

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