Cognitive Processing

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 329–342 | Cite as

The impact of inhibition capacities and age on number–space associations

  • Danielle HoffmannEmail author
  • Delia Pigat
  • Christine Schiltz
Research Report


Numerical and spatial representations are tightly linked, i.e., when doing a binary classification judgment on Arabic digits, participants are faster to respond with their left/right hand to small/large numbers, respectively (Spatial-Numerical Association of Response Codes, SNARC effect, Dehaene et al. in J Exp Psychol Gen 122:371–396, 1993). To understand the underlying mechanisms of the well-established SNARC effect, it seems essential to explore the considerable inter-individual variability characterizing it. The present study assesses the respective roles of inhibition, age, working memory (WM) and response speed. Whereas these non-numerical factors have been proposed as potentially important factors to explain individual differences in SNARC effects, none (except response speed) has so far been explored directly. Confirming our hypotheses, the results show that the SNARC effect was stronger in participants that had weaker inhibition abilities (as assessed by the Stroop task), were relatively older and had longer response times. Interestingly, whereas a significant part of the age influence was mediated by cognitive inhibition, age also directly impacted the SNARC effect. Similarly, cognitive inhibition abilities explained inter-individual variability in number–space associations over and above the factors age, WM capacity and response speed. Taken together our results provide new insights into the nature of number–space associations by describing how these are influenced by the non-numerical factors age and inhibition.


SNARC effect Numerical cognition Normal aging Inhibition Individual differences 



This project was supported by a Grant from the University of Luxembourg F3R-EMA-PUL-09NSP2. The first-named author was supported by a PHD-AFR grant from the Fond National de la Recherche, Luxembourg (PHD-09-160).

Supplementary material

10339_2014_601_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (73 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 72 kb)


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Copyright information

© Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Danielle Hoffmann
    • 1
    Email author
  • Delia Pigat
    • 1
  • Christine Schiltz
    • 1
  1. 1.EMACS Unit, FLSHASEUniversity of LuxembourgWalferdangeLuxembourg

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