## Mathematics anxiety affects counting but not subitizing during visual enumeration

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**Title**

- Mathematics anxiety affects counting but not subitizing during visual enumeration

**Authors**

- Erin A. Maloney, Evan F. Risko, Daniel Ansari, and Jonathan Fugelsang (2010)

**Journal and DOI**

- Journal: Cognition, 114 (2), p. 293-297
- DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2009.09.013

**Previous Research**

- Research has shown that people high in math anxiety – that is, people who experience fear or apprehension regarding math – tend to perform worse on difficult math problems than their peers who are low in math anxiety.
- Studies have also found that math anxiety is not strongly linked to performance on simple math problems, such as addition or multiplication.
- Researchers have proposed that this distinction may be because the working memory resources that would be devoted to complex arithmetic calculations are preoccupied by math anxiety.

**What did we ask?**

- Do high math anxious adults also perform worse on measures of basic number processing?

**How did we do it?**

- Participants completed a visual enumeration task, where they were asked to identify the number of rectangular boxes that were presented to them on a computer screen. In this task, if participants are shown 1-4 objects, they will typically engage in a quick and accurate process called ‘subitizing’, where counting is not necessary to determine how many objects are on the screen. Conversely, if participants are shown 5+ objects, then they will have to count to determine the answer.

**What did we find?**

- Compared to participants who were low in math anxiety, participants who were high in math anxiety were slower and less accurate during the counting section (i.e., when there were 5-10 rectangles present). Both the high math anxious and low math anxious participants were equally quick and accurate when enumerating rectangles in the 1-4 range.

**Take away Message**

- The results of this study suggest that math anxiety is related to basic numerical processing, and not only to complex mathematical processing, as previously thought.

**Brought to you by Dr. Erin Maloney’s Cognition and Emotion Lab at the University of Ottawa.**** **** **