Separate Mechanisms for Magnitude and Order Processing in the Spatial-Numerical Association of Response Codes (SNARC) Effect: The Strange Case of Musical Note Values




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American Psychological Association



Peer reviewed


The SNARC effect is considered an evidence of the association between numbers and space, with faster left key-press responses to small numbers and faster right key-press responses to large numbers. We examined whether visually presented note values produce a SNARC-like effect. Differently from numbers, note values are represented as a decreasing left-to-right progression, allowing us to disambiguate the contribution of order and magnitude in determining the direction of the effect. Musicians with formal education performed a note value comparison in Experiment 1 (direct task), a line orientation judgment in Experiment 2 (indirect task), and a detection task in Experiment 3 (indirect task). When note values were task relevant (direct task), participants responded faster to large note values with the left key-press, and vice versa. Conversely, when note values were task irrelevant (indirect tasks), the direction of this association was reversed. This evidence suggests the existence of separate mechanisms underlying the SNARC effect. Namely, an Order-Related Mechanism (ORM) and a Magnitude-Related Mechanism (MRM), that are revealed by different task demands. Indeed, according to a new model we proposed, ordinal and magnitude related information seem to be preferentially involved in direct and indirect tasks, respectively.


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Prpic, V., Fumarola, A., De Tommaso, M., Luccio, R., Murgia, M. and Agostini, T., (2016) Separate mechanisms for magnitude and order processing in the spatial-numerical association of response codes (SNARC) effect: The strange case of musical note values. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 42 (8), pp.1241-1251


Research Institute

Institute for Psychological Science