Mind & Society

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 135–148 | Cite as

Numerals as triggers of System 1 and System 2 in the ‘bat and ball’ problem

  • Antonio Mastrogiorgio
  • Enrico PetraccaEmail author


The ‘bat and ball’ is one of the problems most frequently employed as a testbed for research on the dual-system hypothesis of reasoning. Frederick (J Econ Perspect 19:25–42, 2005) is the first to envisage the possibility that different numerical arrangements of the ‘bat and ball’ problem could lead to different dynamics of activation of the dual-system, and so to different performances of subjects in task accomplishment. This possibility has triggered a strand of research oriented to accomplish ‘sensitivity analyses’ of the ‘bat and ball’ problem. The scope of this paper is to test experimentally the specific hypothesis that numerals are responsible for the selective activation of the two systems of reasoning in this task. In particular, we argue that their role goes beyond and cannot be reduced to that of numbers conceived as magnitudes. To test our hypothesis, we devise an experimental setting in which the role of numbers (as magnitudes) is rendered irrelevant. We find experimental results consistent with our hypothesis. We further provide a link between the literature on mathematical problem-solving and that on mathematical cognition research, in particular that branch labeled embodied mathematical cognition.


Cognitive reflection ‘Bat and ball’ problem Dual-system theory Magnitudes Numerals Embodied mathematical cognition 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CIRPS, Sapienza University of RomeRomeItaly
  2. 2.CIS, Department of PhilosophyUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly

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