Increasing magnitude counts more: asymmetrical processing of ordinality in 4-month-old infants

Cognition. 2012 Aug;124(2):183-93. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2012.05.004. Epub 2012 Jun 6.


While infants' ability to discriminate quantities has been extensively studied, showing that this competence is present even in neonates, the ability to compute ordinal relations between magnitudes has received much less attention. Here we show that the ability to represent ordinal information embedded in size-based sequences is apparent at 4months of age, provided that magnitude changes involve increasing relations. Infants in Experiments 1A and 1B discriminated changes in ordinal relations after habituation to ascending sequences, but did not show evidence of discrimination after habituation to descending sequences. In Experiment 2 we replicated this asymmetry in magnitude discrimination even when additional cues known to boost ordinal competence were provided. The presence of an asymmetry between ascending vs. descending order during infancy suggests a developmental continuity in the underlying code used to represent magnitude, whereby the reported addition advantage in children and adults' arithmetic performance emerges.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cognition*
  • Discrimination, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mathematical Concepts*
  • Psychology, Child*
  • Recognition, Psychology*