A cognitive model for multidigit number reading: Inferences from individuals with selective impairments

Dror Dotan*, Naama Friedmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We propose a detailed cognitive model of multi-digit number reading. The model postulates separate processes for visual analysis of the digit string and for oral production of the verbal number. Within visual analysis, separate sub-processes encode the digit identities and the digit order, and additional sub-processes encode the number's decimal structure: its length, the positions of 0, and the way it is parsed into triplets (e.g., 314987 → 314,987). Verbal production consists of a process that generates the verbal structure of the number, and another process that retrieves the phonological forms of each number word. The verbal number structure is first encoded in a tree-like structure, similarly to syntactic trees of sentences, and then linearized to a sequence of number-word specifiers. This model is based on an investigation of the number processing abilities of seven individuals with different selective deficits in number reading. We report participants with impairment in specific sub-processes of the visual analysis of digit strings – in encoding the digit order, in encoding the number length, or in parsing the digit string to triplets. Other participants were impaired in verbal production, making errors in the number structure (shifts of digits to another decimal position, e.g., 3,040 → 30,004). Their selective deficits yielded several dissociations: first, we found a double dissociation between visual analysis deficits and verbal production deficits. Second, several dissociations were found within visual analysis: a double dissociation between errors in digit order and errors in the number length; a dissociation between order/length errors and errors in parsing the digit string into triplets; and a dissociation between the processing of different digits – impaired order encoding of the digits 2–9, without errors in the 0 position. Third, within verbal production, a dissociation was found between digit shifts and substitutions of number words. A selective deficit in any of the processes described by the model would cause difficulties in number reading, which we propose to term “dysnumeria”.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-281
Number of pages33
StatePublished - Apr 2018


  • Dyscalculia
  • Dysnumeria
  • Learning disabilities
  • Number reading
  • Symbolic numbers
  • Transcoding


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