The common magnitude code underlying numerical and size processing for action but not for perception

Rocco Y.C. Chiou, Erik C. Chang, Ovid J.L. Tzeng, Denise H. Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The interaction between numbers and action-related process has received increasing attention in the literature of numerical cognition. In the current study, two dual-task experiments were conducted to explore the interaction among numerical, prehension, and perceptual color/size judgments. The results revealed the commonality and distinctness of the magnitude representations that are involved in these tasks. Specifically, a photograph of a graspable object with a superimposed Arabic digit was presented in each trial. Participants were required to first judge the parity of the digit with a manual response while simultaneously planning a subsequent vocal response pertaining to the depicted object. When parity and action judgments were performed close in time, the compatibility effect between the numerical magnitude of the digit and the appropriate action (pinch vs. clutch) for the object was demonstrated in both manual and vocal responses. In contrast, such compatibility effect was absent when parity judgment was coupled with color-related or perceptual size judgment. The findings of the current study support the existence of a common magnitude code underlying numerical and non-numerical dimensions for action-related purposes, as proposed by the ATOM model (Walsh in Trends Cogn Sci 7:483-488, 2003). Furthermore, based on the selective presence of the compatibility effect, we argue that the interaction among different quantity dimensions conforms to the "dorsal-action and ventral-perception" organizational principle of the human brain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-562
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2009


  • A theory of magnitude
  • Action affordance
  • Cross-task compatibility
  • Dual-pathway
  • Numerical cognition


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