Does the Grammatical Gender of the Objects to Be Numerically Processed Interfere with the Numbers?


  • Daria Kuznetsova Eötvös Loránd University



Both humans and non-human animals share a common ability to process numerical information, indicating that basic numerical competence is rooted in biological primitives observed even in infants and animals. The simple representation underlying the processing of numerical comparisons is known as the Analog Number System (ANS).

The main feature of ANS is its discriminability, which follows Weber’s law, meaning the ability to distinguish two magnitudes depends on their ratio [1]. For instance, lengths representing numbers 1 and 2 should be easier to differentiate than those representing 7 and 8 (size effect), and it is easier to distinguish between lengths representing 1 and 3 than between those representing 2 and 3 (distance effect). Nevertheless, symbolic and non-symbolic number processing may not rely on identical representations [2].

 Introduction to the project 

Currently, I am involved in a study led by Attila Krajcsi that investigates an alternative explanation of symbolic number processing. The proposal suggests that symbolic numbers can be stored in a Discrete Semantic System. In this system, numbers are represented as nodes with the connections between them reflecting the semantic relations directed by the numerical distance of the number pairs. Numerical magnitude can interfere with other properties, e.g. evenness can be associated with small values.

In the current research,  the central question is whether the grammatical gender of objects to be numerically processed interferes with the numbers. The interference between gender and numbers may support the idea that a language-like number system causes such interferences as numbers may interfere with a grammatical category. In this study, we investigate the interference of the value and gender.


The experiment includes two groups of native Bulgarian-speaking and Russian-speaking participants. First, participants should determine the gender of the words that refer to objects, then complete the Parity Task (decide on the number of those objects) and Comparison Task (decide whether the number is smaller or greater than 5). Reaction time is collected to measure the interference effect. 


Data collection is ongoing, but the Bulgarian-speaking sample has already been analyzed. Results indicate a homogeneous gender-based interference, demonstrating that participants associate masculine and feminine words with specific numerical values.


[1] Dehaene, S. (1997). The number sense. New York: Oxford University Press

[2] Leibovich, T., & Ansari, D. (2016). The symbol-grounding problem in numerical cognition: A review of theory, evidence, and outstanding questions. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology / Revue canadienne de psychologie expérimentale, 70(1), 12–23.