Size Matters. Does Number? Magnitude Perception and Dominance Judgments. Open Access

Schwartz, Bari Lynn (2012)

Permanent URL:



Size Matters. Does Number? Magnitude Perception and Dominance Judgments.

Social animals develop social structures so they can organize their environment. Following these
structures, animals must make decisions based on dominance. Those who are more dominant
have priority access to desirable objects such as food and mates. Previous research suggests that
human infants and other non-human animals are able to use certain information, such as physical
size and number, to determine dominance. The current study examined how 3-year-olds, 5-year-
olds, and adults used physical size and numerical information to determine which of two groups
was dominant. When presented alone, 3-year-olds and adults were able to use number and
physical size to make dominance judgments. When pitted against each other, these participants
showed a preference for physical size, at least when the groups consisted of relatively few
individuals. Five-year-olds, however, focused on number to make dominance judgments. These
results suggest that there is an early basis for the ability to use magnitude information to
represent dominance and that learning may affect the relative saliency of magnitudes when
judging dominance.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Dominance in Non-human Animals...1

Dominance in Humans...3

Magnitude Discrimination...5

The Current Study...6

Hypotheses and goals...8



Stimuli and Design...9

Task and Procedure...10


Scoring for Social Competition Task...12

Analyses of Children's Responses...12

Analyses of Adult's Responses...13

Choice proportion...13

Reaction time and odds...14

General Results...15


Three-year-olds and Adults...16

Five-year-old Children...17

Learning How to Represent Dominance...20


Tables and Figures...23

Table 1...23

Figure 1...24

Figure 2...25

Figure 3...26

Figure 4...27

Figure 5...28


About this Honors Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files