Public Release: 

A review concerning relationships and independence of human number, time and space processing

Science China Press

Perception of NTS are basic cognitive processes for humans to interact with their environment. Whether a common magnitude system exits for NTS processing is such an important question to investigate. Following and guided by previous researchers, Dr. Yalin Chen and Chang Liu, from the Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and the School of Psychology, Nanjing Normal University, China, reviewed present evidence and provided some comments concerning this question. Their work, entitled "Relationships and independence of human number, time, and space processing", was published in the Chinese Science Bulletin, 2013, Vol 58(25).

Along with more and more research focused on NTS processing, the review of the relationship of the processes should be done. Although many previous studies have investigated the processes independently, and some studies have also investigated the relationships between each of the two, few studies systematically investigate the common mechanism among these three. As the research carries on further, the review of the present evidence concerning the relationship and independence of these three processes needs to be done.

In the article, the authors reviewed evidence concerning the interaction between number and time processing, number and space processing, and time and space processing. Then addressed the question about whether a common magnitude system exits with the introduction of a multiple magnitude system theory and a common magnitude system theory. In regards to number and time processing, research has shown that they interact with each other, but time processing may also occur independently. With number and space processing, research has shown that they share common features but have some differences. While when humans invoke time and space processing, time processing may be influenced by irrelevant spatial information. Taken together, some researchers argue that there are multiple magnitude systems responsible for NTS processing, while others believe that a common magnitude system is the basis for this type of processing. We cannot draw a specific conclusion based on the present evidence. More research needs to be carried out further to provide more evidence to help us reach a conclusion. Based on present research, there are several directions for future studies to pay attention to, such as explore the processing of NTS more systematically, the relationship of other types of processing (e.g., calculation), and other magnitude dimensions (e.g., sound, light).

To understand the perception of NTS is important in order to understand human cognition, and has important, potential value. Stanislas Dehaene and Elizabeth Brannon refer the research of number, time and space as "a Kantian research program", related to Kantian's "a priori intuitions" in Critique of Pure Reason. This work provides some research background of NTS processing. It may also help us further understand human cognition.


See the article: Chen Y L, Liu C. Relationships and independence of human number, time and space processing (in Chinese). Chinese Science Bulletin (Chinese Version), 2013, 58:2609, doi: 10.1360/972012-1193


Science China Press Co., Ltd. (SCP) is a scientific journal publishing company of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). For 50 years, SCP takes its mission to present to the world the best achievements by Chinese scientists on various fields of natural sciences researches.

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