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Workshop: Shared Visual Representations in Human and Machine Intelligence (SVRHM)

Probing Representations of Numbers in Vision and Language Models

Ivana Kajic · Aida Nematzadeh


The ability to represent and reason about numbers in different contexts is an important aspect of human and animal cognition. Literature in numerical cognition posits the existence of two number representation systems: one for representing small, exact numbers, which is largely based on visual processing, and another system for representing larger, approximate quantities. In this work, we investigate number sense in vision and language models by examining learned representations and asking: What is the structure of the space representing numbers? Which modality contributes mostly to the representation of a number? While our analyses reveal that small numbers are processed differently from large numbers, as in biological systems, we also found a strong linguistic contribution in the structure of number representations in vision and language models, highlighting a difference between representations in biology and artificial systems.

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