Does size matter? Behavioral and neural insights into the representation of small and large number symbols

Fabian Christopher Gerardus van den Berg

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisInternal

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This dissertation investigates how we learn numbers. A symbol such as “5” has nothing “five” about it, yet we know how much it means. This thesis compares numbers we can “see” without counting (1-4) to larger numbers. For the first time, behavioural and brain measurements showed that only small numbers can be learned by connecting them to real-world counterparts. When processing symbols, children rely on the numerical meaning of a symbol for the smaller range but use different strategies for larger symbols. A difference that can only be seen with brain measurements. The second part of this thesis looked at the role hands might have in learning numbers. Each culture has their own way of “showing numbers”, and that specific way of holding up fingers to show three for example seems to be processed faster and more accurate by our brain, bypassing number processing and going straight to the meaning.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Maastricht University
  • Jonkman, Lisa, Supervisor
  • de Weerd, Peter, Supervisor
Award date14 Dec 2021
Place of PublicationMaastricht
Print ISBNs9789464235562
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • learning
  • numbers
  • hands
  • electroencephalography

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