Loughborough University
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Concepts of order: why is ordinality processed slower and less accurately for non-consecutive sequences?

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Both adults and children are slower at judging the ordinality of non-consecutive sequences (e.g., 1-3-5) than consecutive sequences (e.g., 1-2-3). It has been suggested that the processing of non-consecutive sequences is slower because it conflicts with the intuition that only count-list sequences are correctly ordered. An alternative explanation, however, may be that people simply find it difficult to switch between consecutive and non-consecutive concepts of order during order judgement tasks. Therefore, in adult participants, we tested whether presenting consecutive and non-consecutive sequences separately would eliminate this switching demand and thus improve performance. In contrast with this prediction, however, we observed similar patterns of response times independent of whether sequences were presented separately or together (Experiment 1). Furthermore, this pattern of results remained even when we doubled the number of trials and made participants explicitly aware when consecutive and non-consecutive sequences were presented separately (Experiment 2). Overall, these results suggest slower response times for non-consecutive sequences do not result from a cognitive demand of switching between consecutive and non-consecutive concepts of order, at least not in adults.


Centre for Mathematical Cognition, Loughborough University



  • Science


  • Mathematics Education Centre

Published in

Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology


SAGE Publications


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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Declan Devlin. Deposit date: 16 September 2023