The Mind's Secret Arithmetic


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Proceedings of the Royal Society. Biological Sciences.Is Integer Arithmetic Fundamental to Mental Processing: The Mind's Secret Arithmetic

by Allan Snyder and John Mitchell

Provocative new research from the Centre published in March as the cover story in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B 266 (1999) 287-292, suggests that all of us have the ability to perform astonishing feats of arithmetic but this facility is not normally easy to access.

ABSTRACT: Unlike the ability to acquire our native language, we struggle to learn multiplication and division. It may then come as a surprise that the mental machinery for performing lightning-fast integer arithmetic calculations could be within us all even though it cannot be readily accessed, nor do we have any idea of its primary function. We are led to this provocative hypothesis by analysing the extraordinary skills of autistic savants. In our view such individuals have privileged access to lower levels of information not normally available through introspection.