Superior numerical abilities following early visual deprivation
In numerical cognition vision has been assumed to play a predominant role in the elaboration of the numerical representations and skills. However, this view has been recently challenged by the discovery that people with early visual deprivation not only have a semantic numerical representation that shares the same spatial properties with that in sighted people, but also have better numerical estimation skills. Here, we show that blind people’s superior numerical abilities can be found in different numerical contexts, whether they are familiar or more general. In particular, we found that blind participants demonstrated better numerical estimation abilities than sighted participants in both an ecologic footstep and an unfamiliar oral verbal production task. Blind participants also tend to show greater working memory skills compared to sighted participants. These findings support the notion that vision is not necessary in the development of numerical cognition and indicate that early visual deprivation may even lead to a general enhancement in numerical estimation abilities. Moreover, they further suggest that blind people’s greater numerical skills might be accounted by enhanced high-level cognitive processes, such as working memory.