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The effect of operation type, operand-order and problem-size on processing simple arithmetic

Webb, Rebecca (2013) The effect of operation type, operand-order and problem-size on processing simple arithmetic. Liverpool Hope University.


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Once learned, simple arithmetic facts are thought to be represented in a dedicated long term memory store, known as an arithmetic retrieval network. Although the existence of this network is generally agreed upon, the organisation and accessibility of it is not. The aim of the current study was thus to test the effect of operation type, presentation format and problem-size on the processing of simple arithmetic. In two separate experiments participants were presented with a series of single digit addition, multiplication and ‘wrong’ problems. In experiment one they indicated which operation sign was used in each problem and in experiment two they indicated what the correct answer to each problem should be. In both experiments, the participants responded to large multiplication problems more slowly than addition and small multiplication problems, but more quickly than wrong problems. Participants were equally fast in responding to small multiplication and addition problems in experiment one but faster to respond to small multiplication problems than addition problems in experiment two. In addition to this, there was an operand-order effect in experiment two but not experiment one. The results challenge two main assumptions of the identical elements model but lend support to the interacting neighbours model. A new model is proposed to account for some of the short comings of previous models.

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