Retrieval or nonretrieval strategies in mental arithmetic? An operand recognition paradigm

Mem Cognit. 2007 Sep;35(6):1344-52. doi: 10.3758/bf03193606.


According to LeFevre, Sadesky, and Bisanz, averaging solution latencies in order to study individuals' arithmetic strategies can result in misleading conclusions. Therefore, in addition to classical chronometric data, they collected verbal reports and challenged the assumption that adults rely systematically on retrieval of arithmetic facts from memory to solve simple addition problems. However, Kirk and Ashcraft questioned the validity of such a methodology and concluded that a more appropriate method has to be found. Thus, we developed an operand recognition paradigm that does not rely on verbal reports or on solution latencies. In accordance with LeFevre et al., we show in a first experiment that adults resort to nonretrieval strategies to solve addition problems involving medium numbers. However, in a second experiment, we show that high-skilled individuals can solve the same problems using a retrieval strategy. The benefits of our paradigm to the study of arithmetic strategies are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mathematics*
  • Mental Processes*
  • Mental Recall*
  • Reaction Time
  • Recognition, Psychology*