Conceptual and procedural distinctions between fractions and decimals: A cross-national comparison

Hee Seung Lee, Melissa DeWolf, Miriam Bassok, Keith J. Holyoak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Previous work has shown that adults in the United States process fractions and decimals in distinctly different ways, both in tasks requiring magnitude judgments and in tasks requiring mathematical reasoning. In particular, fractions and decimals are preferentially used to model discrete and continuous entities, respectively. The current study tested whether similar alignments between the format of rational numbers and quantitative ontology hold for Korean college students, who differ from American students in educational background, overall mathematical proficiency, language, and measurement conventions. A textbook analysis and the results of five experiments revealed that the alignments found in the United States were replicated in South Korea. The present study provides strong evidence for the existence of a natural alignment between entity type and the format of rational numbers. This alignment, and other processing differences between fractions and decimals, cannot be attributed to the specifics of education, language, and measurement units, which differ greatly between the United States and South Korea.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-69
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Feb 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Preparation of this paper was supported by the Yonsei University Future-leading Research Initiative of 2015 ( 2015-22-0078 ) to Hee Seung Lee, and NSF Fellowship DGE-1144087 to Melissa DeWolf. A preliminary report of part of this work was presented at the Thirty-seventh Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (Pasadena, California, July 2015). Correspondence may be addressed to Hee Seung Lee, Department of Education, Yonsei University, 50 Yonsei-ro, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, Korea (email:

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier B.V..

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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