Cognitive Representations and Processes in Arithmetic: Inferences From the Performance of Brain-Damaged Subjects

Scott M. Sokol, Michael McCloskey, Neal J. Cohen, Donna Aliminosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In this article, we present data from two brain-damaged patients with calculation impairments in support of claims about the cognitive mechanisms underlying simple arithmetic performance. We first present a model of the functional architecture of the cognitive calculation system based on previous research. We then elaborate this architecture through detailed examination of the patterns of spared and impaired performance of the two patients. From the patients' performance we make the following theoretical claims: that some arithmetic facts are stored in the form of individual fact representations (e.g., 9 × 4 = 36), whereas other facts are stored in the form of a general rule (e.g., 0 × N = 0); that arithmetic fact retrieval is mediated by abstract internal representations that are independent of the form in which problems are presented or responses are given; that arithmetic facts and calculation procedures are functionally independent; and that calculation algorithms may include special-case procedures that function to increase the speed or efficiency of problem solving. We conclude with a discussion of several more general issues relevant to the reported research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-376
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1991
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language

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