The link between mental rotation ability and basic numerical representations.
Thompson JM., Nuerk HC., Moeller K., Cohen Kadosh R.
Mental rotation and number representation have both been studied widely, but although mental rotation has been linked to higher-level mathematical skills, to date it has not been shown whether mental rotation ability is linked to the most basic mental representation and processing of numbers. To investigate the possible connection between mental rotation abilities and numerical representation, 43 participants completed four tasks: 1) a standard pen-and-paper mental rotation task; 2) a multi-digit number magnitude comparison task assessing the compatibility effect, which indicates separate processing of decade and unit digits; 3) a number-line mapping task, which measures precision of number magnitude representation; and 4) a random number generation task, which yields measures both of executive control and of spatial number representations. Results show that mental rotation ability correlated significantly with both size of the compatibility effect and with number mapping accuracy, but not with any measures from the random number generation task. Together, these results suggest that higher mental rotation abilities are linked to more developed number representation, and also provide further evidence for the connection between spatial and numerical abilities.