Neuroscience Intro: This is an introduction to an article posted on another website. The full article is available at the link below the article.
Is our ability to map numbers onto a physical space – such as along a line – a cultural invention rather than an innate ability?
Members of a remote tribe in Papua New Guinea understand the concept of numbers but do not map them along a line, which suggests that the ‘number line’ must be learned.
Researchers have long thought that the human brain is hard wired to associate numbers with physical space, and we naturally associate numbers with physical space. The idea received a boost in 2002 when it was discovered that people with brain damage who were unable to fully perceive one side of their body had trouble interpreting the number line – they claimed, for example, that five lies between three and six (Nature, DOI:10.1038/417138a).