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Are small and large numbers represented similarly or differently on the mental number line? The size effect was used to argue that numbers are represented differently. However, recently it has been argued that the size effect is due to the comparison task and is not derived from the mental number line per se. Namely, it is due to the way that the mental number line is mapped onto the task-relevant output component. Here synesthesia was used to disentangle these two alternatives. In two naming experiments a digit-color synesthete showed that the congruity effect was modulated by number size. These results support the existence of a mental number line with a vaguer numerical representation as numbers increase in size. In addition, the results show that in digit-color synesthesia, colors can evoke numerical representation automatically.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





548 - 557


Adult, Association Learning, Attention, Color Perception, Concept Formation, Discrimination Learning, Humans, Imagination, Male, Mathematics, Reaction Time