Are Rank Orders Mentally Represented by Spatial Arrays?

Frontiers in Psychology 12 (2021)
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Abstract

The present contribution argues that transitive reasoning, as exemplified in paradigms of linear order construction in mental space, is associated with spatial effects. Starting from robust findings from the early 70s, research so far has widely discussed the symbolic distance effect. This effect shows that after studying pairs of relations, e.g., “A > B,” “B > C,” and “D > E,” participants are more correct, and faster in correct responding, the wider the “distance” between two elements within the chain A > B > C > D > E. The SDE has often been given spatial interpretations, but alternatively, non-spatial models of the effect are also viable on the empirical basis so far, which means the question about spatial contributions to the construction of analog representations of rank orders is still open. We suggest here that laterality effects can add the necessary additional information to support the idea of spatial processes. We introduce anchoring effects in terms of showing response advantages for congruent versus incongruent pairings of presentation location on a screen on the one hand, and the hypothetical spatial arrangement of the order in mental space, on the other hand. We report pertinent findings and discuss anchoring paradigms with respect to their internal validity as well as their being rooted in basic mechanisms of trained reading/writing direction.

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References found in this work

Metaphors we live by.George Lakoff & Mark Johnson - 1980 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Mark Johnson.
Image and Mind.Stephen Michael Kosslyn - 1980 - Harvard University Press.

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