The Enculturated Move From Proto-Arithmetic to Arithmetic

Frontiers in Psychology 10 (2019)
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The basic human ability to treat quantitative information can be divided into two parts. With proto-arithmetical ability, based on the core cognitive abilities for subitizing and estimation, numerosities can be treated in a limited and/or approximate manner. With arithmetical ability, numerosities are processed (counted, operated on) systematically in a discrete, linear, and unbounded manner. In this paper, I study the theory of enculturation as presented by Menary (2015) as a possible explanation of how we make the move from the proto-arithmetical ability to arithmetic proper. I argue that enculturation based on neural reuse provides a theoretically sound and fruitful framework for explaining this development. However, I show that a comprehensive explanation must be based on valid theoretical distinctions and involve several stages in the development of arithmetical knowledge. I provide an account that meets these challenges and thus leads to a better understanding of the subject of enculturation.

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Markus Pantsar
Aachen University of Technology


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