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The current study documents the presence of cultural differences in the development of finger counting strategies. About 900 Middle Eastern (i.e., Iranian) and Western (i.e., European and American) individuals reported in an online survey how they map numbers onto their fingers when counting from 1 to 10. The analysis of these bimanual counting patterns revealed clear cross-cultural differences in the hand and finger starting preferences: While most Western individuals started counting with the left hand and associated the number 1 with their thumb, most Middle Eastern respondents preferred to start counting with the right hand and preferred to map the number 1 onto their little finger. The transition between the two hands during counting showed equal proportions of symmetry-based and spatial continuity-based patterns in the two cultures. Implications of these findings for numerical cognition and for the origin of the well-known association between numbers and space are discussed.
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Finger Counting Habits
Running head: Finger Counting Habits
Finger Counting Habits in Middle-Eastern and Western Individuals:
An Online Survey
Oliver Lindemann
, Ahmad Alipour
& Martin H. Fischer
Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University, the Netherlands
Payame Noor University, Tehran, Iran
School of Psychology, University of Dundee, United Kingdom
Correspondence to:
Oliver Lindemann,
Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
P.O. Box 9104, 6500 HE Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Telephone: +31 24 36 12615
n press:
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
This manuscript may not exactly replicate the final published version. It is not the copy of record.
Finger Counting Habits
The current study documents the presence of cultural differences in the development of
finger counting strategies. About 900 Middle-Eastern (i.e., Iranian) and Western (i.e., European
and American) individuals reported in an online survey how they map numbers onto their fingers
when counting from 1 to 10. The analysis of these bimanual counting patterns revealed clear
cross-cultural differences in the hand and finger starting preferences: While most Western
individuals started counting with the left hand and associated the number 1 with their thumb,
most Middle-Eastern respondents preferred to start counting with the right hand and preferred to
map the number 1 onto their little finger. The transition between the two hands during counting
showed equal proportions of symmetry-based and spatial continuity-based patterns in the two
cultures. Implications of these findings for numerical cognition and for the origin of the well-
known association between numbers and space are discussed.
Keywords: finger counting, mental number line, numerical cognition, reading direction.
Abstract: 146 words; Main text: 4,724 words
Finger Counting Habits
Our ability to precisely quantify arbitrarily large sets of objects is a key cultural
achievement. At the root of this ability may be an evolutionarily inherited “number sense” that
allows us to tell rapidly and effortlessly the precise numerosity of small sets. But this basic sense
of quantity is assisted by acquired counting skills as we deal with larger sets (for discussion see
the review by Göbel, Shaki, & Fischer, this issue). Counting involves the repetitive establishing
of a one-to-one correspondence between an ordered series of count words and the available
objects. Once all objects have been counted the last count word gives the cardinality of the set.
Counting is a cultural technique that is acquired in the first four years of life by most children,
and it universally relies on the use of body parts, most often the fingers.
Finger counting has been documented in almost all cultures present and past, making the
hand the “earliest calculating machine” (Ifrah, 1981, chapter 3; Pika, Nicolandis, & Marentette,
2009). The use of fingers is also the origin of the base 10 of our number system, and the term
“digit” for numerals was already introduced from the Latin into English in the 14th century
(Richardson, 1916, p. 7). Anthropological studies show that, in several languages, the word
“five” has common ancestors with the words “fist” or “hand” (Menninger, 1969). All counting
techniques must solve the fundamental problem of where to start – i.e. which finger is assigned
to the first number? As we will show below, this problem has recently become a matter of
renewed interest for numerical cognition researchers.
Finger Counting Habits
The Romans, whose hand shapes during finger counting provided the inspiration for their
number symbols (Cushing, 1892), were familiar with counting from 1 to 99 on the left hand
alone (Bechtel, 1909). Consistent with this historical information, Bede’s influential medieval
finger counting guide prescribed use of the left hand to depict numbers up to 100, but older
sources such as Greek poems frequently reported the use of the right hand (e.g., Richardson,
1916). Could this inconsistency be due to different hand preferences of those individuals whose
behaviors were reported? In agreement with this speculation, Cushing (1892, p. 292) postulated
that, due to “…the universality of right handedness and of the tendency to number with the
fingers, […] the right hand has ever been the counter, the fingers of the left hand the ones
counted”. This proposal was reiterated by Dantzig (1930/1954), who further argued that “...
primitive man rarely goes about unarmed. If he wants to count he tucks his weapon under his
arm, the left arm as a rule, and counts on his left hands, using his right hand as a check-off.”
(1954, p. 13). However, Dantzig dropped the further claim of Cushing that this style of
counting would involve facing the palm, thus making the little finger the most convenient
starting point. The little finger may also become a starting point due to its small size, thus
conveniently marking the smallest numerosity (what may be called the “smallest finger
Conant (1896/1960, p. 437f.) stated that almost all of 206 investigated children (aged 4–8
years) from public schools in Worcester/Massachusetts began to count with their left hand, and
that this left-preference remained in an older cohort. He also reported that the starting finger was
initially arbitrary but then a preference for a palm-down posture and starting with the little finger
(known as “pinkie”) emerged. Conant (1896/1960) argued that this developmental change
possibly reflects a combination of the smallest finger heuristic and the acquisition of reading
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habits, because in a palm down posture the little finger of the left hand is on the left side, which
corresponds to the starting position of reading in Western languages.
Summarizing this brief review, there seems to be a clear trend towards starting to count
on the left side. In addition to hand preference, the tendency to map small numbers with the left
side of space could also reflect the influence of the writing system, which is from left to right in
the predominantly Western populations that have been investigated by numerical cognition
researchers so far (for further discussion see Gıbel et al., this issue). Little information seems to
exist about finger counting preferences in contemporary cultures that use right to left writing
systems, and hardly any data seem to address the issue of whether the left start preference
reverses in left-handers, although this prediction was made by several scholars.
Recently, these issues have been systematically re-addressed in the study of numerical
cognition. Specifically, the claim has been investigated that our cognitive representation of
numerical magnitude information has a spatial component (the SNARC effect; Dehaene, Bossini
& Giraux, 1993; for a recent review see Wood & Fischer, 2008). The SNARC effect is one of
several empirical observations that have led numerical cognition researchers to postulate a
“mental number line”, i.e., a cognitive representation of numerical magnitude information in the
form of a linear arrangement with small numbers to the left of larger numbers. While it was
originally proposed that reading habits were the cause for the left-to-right arrangements of
numbers along the mental number line, more recent work suggested that such habits were not as
powerful as previously thought, and that this spatial bias is already present in Western children
before reading acquisition (Opfer & Furlong, this issue; Gıbel et al., this issue).
As an alternative proposal to explain the left bias for small numbers, an influence of
finger counting habits on the SNARC effect was reported by Fischer (2008). The author
Finger Counting Habits
measured start preferences for finger counting, as well as general hand preference in 445 Scottish
adults. It emerged that 66% of respondents preferred to start counting on the left hand (so-called
“left-starters”). This outcome supported the hypothesis that the association between small
numbers and left space could well be a result of habitual finger counting. Importantly, the
percentage of left-starters was similar for left-handed and for right-handed participants, thus
suggesting that hand preference does not affect the starting hand in finger counting. Another
result of this questionnaire study was that the thumb was most often assigned to the number 1. A
follow-up experiment investigated whether finger counting habits modulated the spatial mapping
of numbers. Although the SNARC effect was not reversed for right- compared to left-starters,
left-starters as a group had a stronger and more consistent spatial-numerical mapping (Fischer,
2008, Experiment 2).
The notion that finger representations are crucially involved in the acquisition of number
processing strategies received support from research indicating that children’s finger gnosis is a
good predictor of their later numerical skills (Noel, 2005). Additional evidence for a coupling
between hand motor circuits and representations of numerical magnitude has been provided by
behavioral and neuroimaging studies with adults (e.g., Lindemann, Abolafia, Girardi, &
Bekkering, 2007; Andres, Seron, & Olivier, 2007; Fischer & Campens, 2008). Taken together,
these results suggest that finger counting habits affect numerical cognition throughout life.
The present study followed up on this recent work by comparing finger counting
preferences in different countries. Although we did not systematically dissociate national,
cultural, and language-related influences on finger counting, we compared counting patterns
between respondents who are familiar with a left-to right orthography and respondents who are
familiar with a right-to-left orthography. Cross-cultural comparisons suggest that the direction of
Finger Counting Habits
writing affects several aspects of cognitive processing (Vaid & Singh, 1989; Chokron & Imbert,
1993). It might therefore be speculated that generalized scanning habits also have an impact on
the development of finger counting strategies. However, research into the acquisition of spatial
aspects of counting is still very limited (e.g., Opfer & Furlong, this issue). First empirical
evidence supporting the notion of culturally mediated developmental changes comes from a
recent study of Shaki, Göbel and Fischer (2010) demonstrating that Israeli children initially start
counting on their left side but when they learn to read and write Hebrew they prefer starting on
their right side.
To document the role of cultural effects in adults’ finger counting, we performed an
online survey and compared finger counting habits in Western and Middle-Eastern cultures. All
languages common in the Middle East except Hebrew have an Arabic alphabet and use Eastern
Arabic digits. Importantly, the directionality of writing is opposite to that from Western
languages [Footnote 1]. One of the most spoken Middle Eastern languages is Persian or Farsi,
the official language of Iran. We asked Iranian as well as European and American participants of
an internet-based questionnaire study in Persian or English language how they map the numbers
1 to 10 onto the fingers of their hands [Footnote 2].
We developed a computer-based version of the finger counting questionnaire previously
described by Fischer (2008). To minimize the problem of the high drop-out rates in internet
surveys (Reips, 2002), we kept the online questionnaire as short as possible so that respondents
could answer all questions within 3 minutes. All instructions and questions, originally formulated
in English, were also translated into Persian. Both the Persian and English versions of the
Finger Counting Habits
questionnaire were made available via the internet. The English questionnaire was advertised via
email to several colleagues working in the field of mathematical cognition who informed their
students. The Persian questionnaire was advertised among Iranian students via the websites of
the Payame Noor University, Tehran, Iran. The period of data collection was about six weeks for
both questionnaires and yielded in total data from 988 participants.
A welcome page informed visitors of the website that the survey investigated finger
counting habits and that participation was anonymous. Once a visitor had agreed to participate, a
form asked for basic demographic data (i.e., gender, age, mother tongue and country of birth).
Afterwards, an instruction screen (in either Persian or English) stated: ”Please hold your empty
hands in front of you and then count aloud from one to ten, using your fingers as you count.
Click the OK button when you have done this.”
Please insert Figure 1 about here
When the participant had clicked the OK button, a schematic drawing of two supine
hands with thumbs pointing outwards appeared, together with ten input fields, one located next
to each finger (see Figure 1). The input field consisted of a drop-down menu with the numbers
one to ten, displayed as either Eastern Arabic (i.e., ١, ٢, ٣, ٤, ٥, ٦, ٧, ٨, ٩, ١٠) or Western Arabic
(i.e., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) numerals in the Persian and the English versions of the
questionnaire, respectively. Participants were instructed to remember how they had just counted
with the fingers of both hands and to select the matching numbers in the corresponding input
fields. Afterwards, participants answered 12 forced-choice questions about their hand preference
(for details see Fischer, 2008) and indicated by clicking one of three radio buttons whether the
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left, right or either hands were used to perform certain everyday activities. We added a question
about the hand used to control the mouse cursor.
Control experiment
A control experiment had established that participants’ answers to the finger counting
questionnaire are not affected by whether they enact or write their responses. Specifically, 56
consecutive participants (aged 18-37 years, 10 males, mostly English native speakers) in various
psychology experiments at the University of Dundee were asked at the beginning of their
participation to enact twelve different activities to establish their hand preference, followed by
enacting the finger count. Their responses were recorded by the experimenter who subsequently,
after an unrelated experiment of about 30 min duration, administered the written version of the
finger counting questionnaire. From among 52 completed data sets, only 5 had different
response pattern between the enacted and written versions (three changed from left to right
starting, 2 from right to left), phi correlation between enacted and written responses Φ=.80,
p<.001. Thus, it is unlikely that the response mode distorted the evidence we discuss next.
Technical implementation
The Persian and English versions of our online questionnaire were absolutely identical
with respect to the layout and control of the user interface [Footnote 3]. The two websites were
however based on different software technologies. For the Persian version, we tried to achieve a
maximal technical compatibility so that the questionnaire was even accessible from very
restrictive network infrastructures. We therefore refrained from using any client-side scripting
and implemented the finger counting questionnaire as mere HTML website. For the English
version, we developed a Java application and embedded it as an applet in our website. One
advantage of this technology is that it allows the highest degree of control and accuracy of the
Finger Counting Habits
visual presentations, as well as a measurement of responses times. However, the compatibility of
Java code is slightly limited, because it will be blocked by firewalls of networks with high
security standards. Importantly, the Java program was developed in such a way that it could later
also be used as a stand-alone (off-line) application [Footnote 4]. The software development
application attached moreover special importance to an easy translation of the questionnaire into
different languages. All language-related settings and text elements can be simply modified via
XML files. Our questionnaire software provides therefore an interesting platform-independent
tool for a computer-based measurement and cross-cultural comparison of finger counting habits
in online research as well as in the laboratory. A demonstration of the Persian and English online
versions of our questionnaires and a download of the Java implementation for offline laboratory
research can be found at .
In order to control for multiple submissions, we checked all answers for time consistency
and filtered all possible double responses that came from the same client computer (identified by
IP address) within a period of 30 minutes (cf. Reips, 2002).
English Version, Western Population.
The English version of the finger counting questionnaire was filled in by 542 individuals.
30 respondents who did not answer all questions, and 35 respondents who reported native
languages that did not involve left-to-right writing were excluded from the sample. The
remaining 477 Western participants consisted of 338 females (70.5%) and 139 males. Their
Finger Counting Habits
average age was 26.6 years (std= 9.2 years). Most participants were born in a Western European
country and were native speakers of a West Germanic language (English, Dutch, or German).
Detailed frequencies of countries of birth and native languages are presented in Table 1.
Persian Version, Middle-Eastern Population.
The Persian finger counting questionnaire was filled in by 446 native Persian speaking
Iranian individuals (predominantly students of Payame Noor University, Tehran). 50 data sets
were excluded due to incomplete submissions, resulting in a sample size of 396 respondents, of
which 218 participants were female (55.1%) and 178 male. The average age was 27.8 years
(std=7.5 years).
Hand preference scores
Hand preference was determined by calculating the differences between the number of
“Right” responses and the number of “Left” responses. Given the 13 questions, a handedness
score could thus range between -13 and + 13. In line with the suggestion of Coren (1993),
respondents were classified as right-handers if their handedness scores were larger than 1/3 of
the maximum score, as left-handers if their scores was smaller than 1/3 of the minimum score
and as ambidextrous otherwise. In total, 76 participants were left-handed, 34 ambidextrous and
763 right-handed. This proportion of left- and right-handed participants is in line with previous
studies (e.g., Hardyck & Petrinovich, 1977). Importantly, there were no differences in hand
preference proportions between Middle-Eastern and Western participants, χ
Finger Counting Habits
Finger counting habits
Finger counting responses were considered invalid when not all fingers were assigned a
number or when the same number was assigned to multiple fingers (n=58). The remaining 815
valid responses were analyzed. The results are summarized in Table 2.
Please insert Table 2 and Figure 2 about here
Hand Starting Preferences for Finger Counting.
Respondents were classified as “left starters” when they mapped the numbers from one to
five to the fingers of the left hand. Respondents who indicated using exclusively fingers of the
right hand to count to five were classified as “right starters”. Interestingly, 68% of Western
participants indicated to map the numbers 1 to 5 onto fingers of the left hand and the other 32%
started with the right hand (see Table 2b). This difference between hands was significant,
χ2(1)=60.24, p<.001, effect size parameter Cramér's Phi φ
Importantly, the proportion of left and right starters was reversed for Middle-Eastern
individuals who reported an overall preference to start counting with the right hand (63.4 % vs.
34.9 %), χ2(1)=28.90, p<.001, φ
=.29 (see also Figure 2). Thus, the hand preference for finger
counting depends strongly on a person’s cultural background and is different for Middle-Eastern
and Western individuals, χ2(1)=84.1, p<.001, φ
A cross-tabulation test of the frequencies with the factors Hand Preference (left, right)
and Hand Starting Preference (left, right) revealed that handedness and counting habits of
Middle-Eastern participants were independent and did not interact, χ2(1)=2.50, p>.1. However,
the proportion of left- and right-starters was different among Western left-handed (n=36 vs. n=4)
and right-handed participants (n=266 vs. n=137), χ2(1)=9.65, p<.01, φ
=.15, suggesting a more
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pronounced left-starting preference among Western left-handers. However, given the highly
unbalanced sample size of left and right handers, and due to the lack of interaction between
handedness and starting preference in Middle-Eastern individuals, it is unclear how reliable this
interaction between handedness and hand starting preference is.
Preferred Finger Sequences.
Middle-Eastern and Western participants used different fingers to indicated the number 1,
χ2(1)=272.40, p<.001, φ
=.56. While Western individuals showed a clear preference to start
counting with the thumb as compared to the pinkie, χ2(1)=294.79, p<.001, φ
=.81, most Middle-
Eastern individuals preferred to start counting with the pinkie compared to the thumb,
χ2(1)=35.01, p<.001, φ
=.32 (Table 2c).
Our questionnaire implied that both hands had to be used for counting from 1 to 10, and
this feature allowed us to compare preferences for anatomically symmetric vs. spatially
continuous counting patterns. Anatomical symmetry is characterized by mapping an ascending
number sequence on the same fingers of each hand. That is, if the left thumb (or pinkie)
represents the smallest number on one hand, then the other thumb (or pinkie) will represent the
smallest number on the other hand. In other words, the starting fingers of the first and second
hand are anatomically identical. In contrast, spatially continuous counting is characterized by a
directional mapping of numbers onto the spatial positions of the fingers. That is, as we look at
our palms, the ordinal distance between numbers always corresponds to the ordinal distance
between fingers. Spatially continuous counting implies always a change of the identity of the
starting finger for the first hand (number 1) to a different starting finger for the second hand
(number 6).
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The analysis of bimanual counting patterns revealed that most participants preferred
anatomical symmetry over spatial continuity (Table 2d). This preference was significant for both
Western, χ2(1)=38.82, p<.001, φ
=.30, and Middle-Eastern participants, χ2(1)=5.17, p<.05,
=.13. A significant interaction between culture and counting strategies revealed a less
pronounced preference for an anatomically symmetric counting for Middle-Eastern compared to
Western individuals, χ2(1)=6.07, p<.05, φ
Finger Counting in Western participants.
Finally, we investigated for Western participants whether their finger counting habits
differed as a result of their different nationalities and associated languages (see Figure 2).
Comparing between English, Dutch, Finnish, German, and Italian languages, we found that the
proportion of left- and right starters was not affected by native language, χ2(4)=7.34, p>.1. There
was, however, a significant difference in counting habits between individuals from the eight
different Western countries included (the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Canada, Finland,
Germany, Italy, Belgium and United States), χ2(7)=14.20, p<.05, φ
=.07. In particular, Belgian
and Italian individuals showed no preference for starting to count with the left hand (p>.85),
while participants from other Western countries, especially from the UK and the US, had a clear
left starting preference (all ps<.001). The analysis of handedness scores showed that hand
preferences did not differ between the countries, χ2(12)=15.84, p>.19.
Several authors have recently suggested that finger counting strategies have an impact on
the cognitive representation of numbers, and in particular on the way in which numerical
magnitude information is mapped onto space (Butterworth, 1999; Di Luca, Grana, Semenza,
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Seron, & Pesenti, 2006; Fischer, 2006, 2008; Sato, Cattaneo, Rizzolatti, & Gallese, 2007; Sato &
Lalain, 2008; Brozzoli, Ishihara, Göbel, Salemme, Rossetti, & Farne, 2008). Although there are
some reports from ethnological studies about counting strategies involving fingers and even the
whole body (e.g., counting systems of Papua New Guinea; Wassmann & Daen, 1994; see
Owens, 2001), surprisingly little is known about cultural differences in the association of
numbers with fingers across modern Middle-Eastern and Western countries. Our analyses of
reported number-to-finger mappings revealed substantial differences in counting habits: Two
thirds of Western participants mapped the numbers 1 to 5 onto the fingers of the left hand while
only one third preferred to start counting with their right hand. This result replicates and
generalizes a recent finding by Fischer (2008) in Scottish adults. Importantly, this ratio between
left and right starters was reversed for Middle-Eastern individuals. Furthermore, Western and
Middle Eastern individuals differed also with respect to preferred starting finger, that is, the first
finger used to count. Almost all Western participants associated the number 1 with the thumb,
whereas most Middle-Eastern participants started counting with the pinkie. Since handedness
scores were equivalently distributed across samples, this suggests a cultural impact on finger
counting strategies. One possible account for the observed reversal of the starting hand and
starting finger preferences could be the fact that Middle Eastern participants habitually read
Persian script from right to left, whereas Western participants habitually read Roman scripts
from left to right. But given the vast number of other culturally mediated differences between
the two populations, it is premature to conclude that reading habits are the sole cause for this
reversed preference.
The fact that most Middle-Eastern participants start counting on the right pinkie and most
Western participants start counting on the left thumb may well be related to differences in the
Finger Counting Habits
direction of prototypical scanning habits. Scanning habits are known to affect the perceived
midpoint of horizontal lines (Chokron & Imbert, 1993) and even the aesthetic preferences of
facial profiles (Nachson, Argaman, & Luria, 1999). These effects of habitual scanning direction
on cognition may in turn strengthen the plausibility of an influence of opposite reading directions
on the observed differences in the mapping of numbers to fingers. However, children already use
their fingers to count before they learn to read and write (Fuson, 1988; Noel, 2005), which in
turn argues against a special impact of reading direction on starting preferences for finger
counting. Moreover, the ubiquitous association between numerosity and space has been shown to
emerge even before formal reading learning (de Hevia & Spelke, 2009; Opfer & Furlong, this
issue). Thus, it seems more plausible that finger counting habits are related to eye scanning
habits in visual perception outside of reading (Vaid & Singh, 1989; Sakhuja et al., 1996) and to
perceptual biases in lateralized visual space, which are already present in kindergarten children
(Chokron & De Agostini, 1995).
Our study focused on a cross-cultural comparison of counting habit among adults, and we
cannot exclude the possibility that our participants developed their hand starting preference as
the result of an improvement of their reading and writing skills. For a better understanding of the
origin of such spatially biased counting habits it will be useful to study hand and finger
preferences in children in future research. Another approach to address this important question
could be a comparison of speakers of the same language and culture that are trained to use
different scripts involving opposite reading directions. This is, for instance, the case in Iranian
blind and sighted individuals (i.e., left-to-right oriented Persian Braille script vs. right-to-left
oriented Persian script).
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Several authors have argued that the spatial orientation of the “mental number line” is the
result of the directionality of one’s reading and writing system (Zebian, 2005, Dehaene et al.,
1993). Support for this notion came from the finding that members of right-to-left writing
cultures, like Arabic [Footnote 5] speaking monolinguals, showed different SNARC effects
compared to native speakers of Western languages (Zebian, 2005). The outcome of the present
study does not support the idea that cultural differences in the orientation of the mental number
line depend on long-lasting reading habits and language-related processes. Our finding of a
strong cultural influence on finger counting habits suggests rather that cross-cultural differences
in spatial number coding should not be exclusively attributed to differently oriented writing
systems (see Shaki & Fischer, 2008; Lindemann, Abolafia, Pratt, & Bekkering, 2008). Instead,
the asymmetry in the numerical domain of adults might rather reflect differences in the
utilizations of hands and fingers while acquiring knowledge about number and learning to count
(Fischer, 2008).
So far, bimanual aspects of finger-number mappings have largely been neglected in
research on numerical cognition. We observed different symmetry principles when comparing
the finger counting sequences across hands. Specifically, two different mapping principles were
characterized by either anatomical symmetry or spatial continuity. The majority (60%) of
participants reported an anatomically symmetric finger-number mapping, engaging the same
sequences of fingers to count from 6 to 10 with their second hand as they had used to count from
1 to 5 with their first hand (e.g., from thumb to pinkie). Only 30 % of participants reported a
spatially continuous finger counting strategy and mapped numbers spatially congruent with the
ordinal position of the fingers in space. Note that spatially continuous mapping involves different
starting fingers for each hand. Research on bimanual co-ordination suggests that symmetrical
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movements are normally preferred and performed more fluently (Kelso, 1984; Spijkers, Heuer,
Kleinsorge, & van der Loo, 1997). The advantage of anatomical symmetry in motor control has
been attributed to a benefit for the activation of homologous muscles or the programming of
movements with identical motor parameters. This property of the motor system explains maybe
why most respondents in our survey prefer an anatomically symmetric counting that deviates
from the spatially continuous “mental number line” mapping that predominates in mathematics
education in both Western and Middle Eastern cultures (Ifrah, 1981). And although this
observation would seem to run against the notion of a spatially continuous number line, it does
not conflict with the idea that finger counting induces a preferential association of small numbers
with one side of space.
The relative proportion of anatomically symmetric and spatially continuous counters was
identical in Middle-Eastern and Western cultures. This suggests that the use of different
between-hand transition principles is the result of an individual strategic decision to represent
numbers. Between-hand transitions might also be constrained by individual biological factors,
such as kinematic factors and cortical overlap. Thus, while cross-cultural differences in the start
hand preferences for counting might help to explain qualitative differences in spatial-numerical
mappings (i.e., the orientation of the “mental number line”), the analysis of transition principles
in bimanual finger counting could clarify intra-individual quantitative differences in spatial
number coding: Individuals who use a spatially continuous counting strategy might show a more
pronounced tendency to map numerical magnitude information onto space compared to
individuals using an anatomical symmetric finger mapping. This prediction remains to be tested
in future research.
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Interestingly, our data suggest that the strength of the average left starting preference
varies across Western countries. The strongest preference to start counting with the left hand was
observed among respondents from the three Anglo-Saxon countries in our sample, that is, from
the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. In contrast with this Anglo-Saxon counting
habit, we observed a relatively balanced ratio among Italian and Belgian left and right starters.
This geographical-cultural clustering of finger counting habits supports the notion that finger
counting habits are culturally mediated and relatively independent from the directionality of
writing systems. Although the sample size of Italian respondents is relative small and needs to be
enlarged for a reliable conclusion, the absence of a left start preference seems consistent with the
report by Di Luca et al. (2006), who postulated a right start preference as the prototypical Italian
finger-counting habit (see Sato & Lalain, 2008, for a similar observation in French individuals).
Further cross-cultural comparisons of finger counting habits will help us to understand why
certain effects of spatial-numerical coding vary between studies from different countries and
might also explain existing inconsistencies in the literature on number processing.
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Brozzoli, C., Ishihara, M., Göbel, S. M., Salemme, R., Rossetti, Y., & Farne, A. (2008). Touch
perception reveals the dominance of spatial over digital representation of numbers.
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Authors’ Notes
We are grateful to all colleagues and students which helped us to advertise our website
with the finger counting questionnaire. There are too many to be mentioned here.
Oliver Lindemann is part of the Interactive Collaborative Information Systems (ICIS)
project, supported by the Dutch Ministry of economic affairs, grant nr: BSIK03024. Martin H.
Fischer was sponsored by the British Academy (SG 46947).
Finger Counting Habits
1. It should be mentioned, however, that the Eastern Arabic numbers used in Middle-
Eastern languages are written from left to right.
2. Some cultures have developed rather sophisticated finger counting strategies and count
well above 5 with a single hand (Ifrah, 1981). These types of counting strategies are not covered
by our questionnaire, since they are very uncommon for the Western and Middle-Eastern
populations investigated in the present study.
3. The appearance of buttons and drop-down menus of HTML websites and JAVA
applets do slight vary, depending on the client computer's operating system and browser. The
appearance of the two schematic hands was, however, unaffected.
4. Software requirements: The only requirement for an installation of the finger counting
questionnaire as stand-alone application (e.g. in the laboratory) is the Java runtime environment
(Version 6 or higher), which is freely available and usually pre-installed on modern computers.
To perform an online survey a standard HTML web-server (e.g., Apache) is required that is
configured to work with a PHP interpreter for hypertext pre-processing and an SQL database
(e.g., MYSQL) to store the collected data. On the client side, merely an internet browser with
Java is needed.
5. Note that Arabic and Persian are two closely related languages that share not only a
common alphabet but also the roots of about 60% of their words.
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Table 1:
Frequencies and Percentages of the Countries of Birth and the Native Languages of the Western
Population Investigated with the English Version of the Questionnaire.
Country of birth
Native Language
Netherlands 108
English 175
UK 86
Dutch 126
Canada 73
Finnish 54
Finland 54
German 44
Germany 41
Italian 38
Italy 38
other 40
Belgium 18
USA 15
other 44
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Table 2:
Frequencies and percentages of finger counting habits indicted by the Western and Middle-
Eastern participants in the online survey.
a) Counting pattern *
1 2 3 4 5
b) Starting Hand
c) Starting Finger (i.e., Number 1)
d) Type of number-finger mapping
Anatomically symmetric
Spatially symmetric
Invalid Pattern
*Each letter pairs gives both the hand (L: left, R: right) and the finger (T:
thumb, I: index finger, M: middle finger, R: Ring finger; P: pinkie) used
to indicate the number at the top of its column.
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Figure Captions
Figure 1. The computer-based finger counting questionnaire. The screen-shorts are taken from
both the Persian and English version and depict only two pages. Instruction screens and the form
for the demographic data are not depicted here.
Figure 2. Percentages of left starters for the Western respondents (light gray) from the different
countries (light gray) examined with the English questionnaire and the Middle-Eastern
respondents (dark gray) examined with the Persian questionnaire. UK: United Kingdom, CAN:
Canada, NED: The Netherlands, FIN: Finland, GER: Germany, ITA: Italy, BEL: Belgium, IRN:
Finger Counting Habits, Figure 1
Finger Counting Habits, Figure 2
% Left Starter
... One of the most thoroughly investigated aspects is the starting hand, which according to early claims follows reading/writing direction (for a review see Zago & Badets, 2016). Consequently, one could expect that a majority of Western participants count from left to right, while right-toleft readers (e.g., Arab, Farsi, & Hebrew speakers) should more often start with their right hand (see Lindemann, Alipour, & Fischer, 2011). However, later studies have shown that even within Western cultures variability exists: there are more left starters in the UK (e.g., Fischer, 2008), while in Belgium and France the majority start with their right hand (e.g., Sato & Lalain, 2008) and in Poland there is a relatively equal split between left-starters and right-starters (Hohol et al., 2018). ...
... After reaching number five, one typically needs to switch hands, and can continue counting with the other hand either by anatomical symmetry (e.g., start with the same finger of the other hand), or by spatial order (continue with the spatially closest finger). The vast majority of Western participants use anatomically symmetric continuation (Hohol et al., 2018;Lindemann et al., 2011), while the prevalence of spatial continuation is slightly higher among Middle Eastern participants (Lindemann et al., 2011). Nevertheless, in both groups the anatomical symmetry remained more prevalent. ...
... After reaching number five, one typically needs to switch hands, and can continue counting with the other hand either by anatomical symmetry (e.g., start with the same finger of the other hand), or by spatial order (continue with the spatially closest finger). The vast majority of Western participants use anatomically symmetric continuation (Hohol et al., 2018;Lindemann et al., 2011), while the prevalence of spatial continuation is slightly higher among Middle Eastern participants (Lindemann et al., 2011). Nevertheless, in both groups the anatomical symmetry remained more prevalent. ...
Full-text available
Numerical cognition might be embodied, that is, grounded in bodily actions. This claim is supported by the observation that, potentially due to our shared biology, finger counting is prevalent among a variety of cultures. Differences in finger counting are apparent even within Western cultures. Relatively few indigenous cultures have been systematically analyzed in terms of traditional finger counting and montring (i.e., communicating numbers with fingers) routines. Even fewer studies used the same protocols across cultures, allowing for a systematic comparison of indigenous and Western finger counting routines. We analyze the finger counting and montring routines of Tsimane' (N = 121), an indigenous people living in the Bolivian Amazon rainforest, depending on handedness, education level, and exposure to mainstream, industrialized Bolivian culture. Tsi-mane' routines are compared with those of German and British participants. Tsimane' reveal a greater variation in finger counting and montring routines, which seems to be modified by their education level. We outline a framework on how different factors such as handedness and reading direction might affect cross-cultural and within-cultural variation in finger counting.
... It seems to depend on multiple factors. Initially, it was postulated that reading and writing direction plays a prominent role (more left-starters in left-to-right reading cultures, more right-starters in right-to-left reading cultures; Lindemann, Alipour, & Fischer, 2011), but later studies have shown that this is not an ultimate explanation: There is a large variation within leftto-right reading Western and European cultures. While, in some countries, there is a majority of right-starters (e.g., Belgium, France, Italy;di Luca, Granà, Semenza, Seron, & Pesenti, 2006;Lindemann et al., 2011;Sato & Lalain, 2008), in some the proportions are relatively equal (e.g., 57 % right-and 43 % of left-starters in Poland; Hohol et al., 2018). ...
... Initially, it was postulated that reading and writing direction plays a prominent role (more left-starters in left-to-right reading cultures, more right-starters in right-to-left reading cultures; Lindemann, Alipour, & Fischer, 2011), but later studies have shown that this is not an ultimate explanation: There is a large variation within leftto-right reading Western and European cultures. While, in some countries, there is a majority of right-starters (e.g., Belgium, France, Italy;di Luca, Granà, Semenza, Seron, & Pesenti, 2006;Lindemann et al., 2011;Sato & Lalain, 2008), in some the proportions are relatively equal (e.g., 57 % right-and 43 % of left-starters in Poland; Hohol et al., 2018). Apart from reading direction, handedness seems to be relevant too, with lefthanders being much more likely to be left-than right-starters, and a more equal share of left-and right-starters are among right-handers (Cipora, Gashaj, Gridley, Soltanlou, & Nuerk, 2021;Hohol et al., 2018). ...
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The Spatial-Numerical Association of Response Codes (SNARC) effect (i.e., faster left/right sided responses to small/large magnitude numbers, respectively) is considered to be strong evidence for the link between numbers and space. Studies have shown considerable variation in this effect. Among the factors determining individual differences in the SNARC effect is the hand an individual uses to start the finger counting sequence. Left-starters show a stronger and less variable SNARC effect than right-starters. This observation has been used as an argument for the embodied nature of the SNARC effect. For this to be the case, one must assume that the finger counting sequence (especially the starting hand) is stable over time. Subsequent studies challenged the view that the SNARC differs depending on the finger counting starting hand. At the same time, it has been pointed out that the temporal stability of the finger counting starting hand should not be taken for granted. Thus, in this pre-registered study, we aimed to replicate the difference in the SNARC between left-and right-starters and explore the relationship between the self-reported temporal stability of the finger counting starting hand and the SNARC effect. In line with the embodied cognition account, left-starters who declare more temporarily stable finger counting habits should reveal a stronger SNARC effect. Results of the preregistered analysis did not show the difference between left-and right-starters. However, further exploratory analysis provided weak evidence that this might be the case. Lastly, we found no evidence for the relationship between finger counting starting hand stability and the SNARC effect. Overall, these results challenge the view on the embodied nature of the SNARC effect.
... Recently, more evidence accumulated towards the situatedness and flexibility of finger counting and the starting hand: while finger counting habits seem to be rather stable over time [20] they are also flexible depending on the situation [20,21]. Moreover, even in Western individuals, for example, Hungarians, Germans and Italians, the right hand [22,23] or either hand [24] is used to start counting while in Middle Eastern countries people tend to start counting on their right hand (with their small finger, see [25]). Overall, while the evidence on the direction of counting (starting left or right) is rather mixed and emphasizes situatedness [26], the unequivocal involvement of fingers in SNAs point towards the embodied nature of numerical cognition. ...
Full-text available
People respond faster to smaller numbers in their left space and to larger numbers in their right space. Here we argue that movements in space contribute to the formation of spatial-numerical associations (SNAs). We studied the impact of continuous isometric forces along the horizontal or vertical cardinal axes on SNAs while participants performed random number production and arithmetic verification tasks. Our results suggest that such isometric directional force do not suffice to induce SNAs.
... The most common way of making lists in signed languages is digital enumeration. Unlike hearing co-speech gesturers who vary regarding the finger with which they start a list (thumb/index versus pinkie) (Lindemann et al., 2011), signers predominantly start with the thumb or index finger. ...
Full-text available
This paper examines how signers make lists. One way is to use the fingers on the signer’s nondominant hand to enumerate items on a list. The signer points to these list-fingers with the dominant hand. Previous analyses considered lists to be nondominant, one-handed signs, and thus were called list buoys because the nondominant hand often remains in place during the production of the list. The pointing hand was largely ignored as a nonlinguistic gesture. We take a constructional approach based on Cognitive Grammar. In our approach, we analyze lists as a type of pointing construction consisting of two meaningful components: a pointing device (the pointing hand) used to direct attention; and a Place, also consisting of form and a meaning. Using data from Brazilian Sign Language (Libras) and Finland–Swedish Sign Language (FinSSL), we examine the semantic role of each component, showing how the nondominant list-fingers identify and track discourse referents, and how the pointing hand is used to create higher-order entities by grouping list-fingers. We also examine the integration of list constructions and their components with other conventional constructions.
... The first line consists of studies reporting sensorimotor influences on adult number processing, such as effects of finger movements on number classification or calculation Michaux et al., 2013;Sixtus et al., 2017Sixtus et al., , 2018. The second line of research is represented by studies investigating how the visual recognition of specific finger patterns facilitates access to mental representations of numbers (Di Luca et al., 2006Di Luca and Pesenti, 2008;Barrocas et al., 2019), and how this association is modulated by individual finger counting habits, such as the preference to start counting on either the left or right hand (Fischer, 2008;Lindemann et al., 2011;Wasner et al., 2014Wasner et al., , 2015Hohol et al., 2018). ...
Full-text available
Finger-based representation of numbers is a high-level cognitive strategy to assist numerical and arithmetic processing in children and adults. It is unclear whether this paradigm builds on simple perceptual features or comprises several attributes through embodiment. Here we describe the development and initial testing of an experimental setup to study embodiment during a finger-based numerical task using Virtual Reality (VR) and a low-cost tactile stimulator that is easy to build. Using VR allows us to create new ways to study finger-based numerical representation using a virtual hand that can be manipulated in ways our hand cannot, such as decoupling tactile and visual stimuli. The goal is to present a new methodology that can allow researchers to study embodiment through this new approach, maybe shedding new light on the cognitive strategy behind the finger-based representation of numbers. In this case, a critical methodological requirement is delivering precisely targeted sensory stimuli to specific effectors while simultaneously recording their behavior and engaging the participant in a simulated experience. We tested the device's capability by stimulating users in different experimental configurations. Results indicate that our device delivers reliable tactile stimulation to all fingers of a participant's hand without losing motion tracking quality during an ongoing task. This is reflected by an accuracy of over 95% in participants detecting stimulation of a single finger or multiple fingers in sequential stimulation as indicated by experiments with sixteen participants. We discuss possible application scenarios, explain how to apply our methodology to study the embodiment of finger-based numerical representations and other high-level cognitive functions, and discuss potential further developments of the device based on the data obtained in our testing.
... Another example is the transformation of arithmetic operations into finger-based representations. Some finger counting studies have provided evidence that supports this idea (e.g., Lindemann et al., 2011;Wasner et al., 2014;Barrocas et al., 2020). For example, Sato et al. (2007) used transcranial magnetic stimulation to examine excitability changes in hand muscles when a group of people were performing a visual parity judgment task. ...
Full-text available
This article discusses the cognitive process of transforming one representation of mathematical entities into another representation. This process, which has been called mathematical metaphor, allows us to understand and embody a difficult-to-understand mathematical entity in terms of an easy-to-understand entity. When one representation of a mathematical entity is transformed into another representation, more cognitive resources such as the visual and motor systems can come into play to understand the target entity. Because of their nature, some curves, which are one group of visual representations, may have a great motor strength. It is suggested that directedness, straightness, length, and thinness are some possible features that determine degree of motor strength of a curve. Another possible factor that can determine motor strength of a curve is the strength of association between shape of the curve and past experiences of the observer (and her/his prior knowledge). If an individual has had the repetitive experience of observing objects moving along a certain curve, the shape of the curve may have a great motor strength for her/him. In fact, it can be said that some kind of metonymic relationship may be formed between the shapes of some curves and movement experiences.
... Based on their finger courting habits, the participants were divided into left-and right-starters using a finger counting questionnaire (Fischer, 2008). This finger counting questionnaire is reported to have good reliability and validity (Fischer, 2008;Lindemann et al., 2011). The data from six participants were excluded from the final analysis due to high levels of EEG artifacts. ...
Full-text available
Finger counting facilitates numerical representations and mathematical processing. The current study investigated the association between finger counting habits and number processing by employing behavioral and electrophysiological measures. We explored whether small and large numerical primes influence the recognition of embodied target hand stimuli. Twenty-four right-handed participants that were grouped into right-starters (n = 13) and left-starters (n = 11) for finger counting performed a hand recognition task that consisted of numerical magnitudes as prime and hand recognition as targets. Based on the finger counting habits, congruent (i.e., left-starters: small number/left hand or large number/right hand; right-starters: small number/right hand or large number/left hand) and incongruent (i.e., left-starters: large number/left hand or small number/right hand; right-starters: large number/right hand or small number/left hand) conditions were presented to the participants. The participants were required to indicate whether the targets were left or right hand by simply pressing the left or the right key, respectively. Results indicated faster reaction times (RTs) for congruent as opposed to incongruent trials for all participants. The mean amplitude of the centro-parietal P300 component was significantly increased for the incongruent compared to congruent condition, indicating increased mental effort. Also, analysis of the latency of the P300 in terms of congruency effect in all participants revealed significant results. These combined results provide behavioral and electrophysiological evidence indicating the embodied nature of numbers. The results are interpreted in light of the general findings related to the P300 component. This research supports the association of number-hand representations and corroborates the idea of embodied numerosity.
... All over the world, children use their fingers to perform numerical processing. This recurrent use leads to the emergence of habits of counting on fingers that persist into adulthood (Hohol et al., 2018) and are embedded in local cultural practices Lindemann et al., 2011). For example, European people raise each finger, one at a time, starting with the thumb and moving to the second hand to represent the numbers 1 to 10, whereas Chinese people prefer to start counting with their index finger and represent the numbers 1 to 9 with the same hand (Bender & Beller, 2012;Domahs et al., 2010). ...
Full-text available
Although the role played by finger use in children’s numerical development has been widely investigated, their benefit in arithmetical contexts is still debated today. This scoping review aimed to systematically identify and summarize all studies that have investigated the relation between fingers and arithmetic skills in children. An extensive search on Ovid PsycINFO and Ovid Eric was performed. The reference lists of included articles were also searched for relevant articles. Two reviewers engaged in study selection and data extraction independently, based on the eligibility criteria. Discrepancies were resolved through discussion. Of the 4707 identified studies, 68 met the inclusion criteria and 7 additional papers were added from the reference lists of included studies. A total of 75 studies were included in this review. They came from two main research areas and were conducted with different aims and methods. Studies published in the mathematical education field (n = 29) aimed to determine what finger strategies are used during development and how they support computation skills. Studies published in cognitive psychology and neuroscience (n = 45) specified the cognitive processes and neurobiological mechanisms underlying the fingers/arithmetic relation. Only one study combined issues raised in both research areas. More studies are needed to determine which finger strategy is the most effective, how finger sensorimotor skills mediate the finger strategies/arithmetic relation, and how they should be integrated into educational practice.
Chapter 7 shows that abstract concepts are inner/cognitive tools. Inner speech is potent in enhancing our cognition, imagination, and motivation. In this chapter, I propose that we use inner speech more extensively with more abstract concepts, during both their acquisition and use, while monitoring our knowledge during their processing and referring to others to complement and enrich it. I review several studies with children and adults showing that the mouth motor system is more engaged during abstract concept acquisition and elaboration. This mouth activation suggests that language is implicitly activated during abstract language processing. Also, while low numbers engage the hand effector more, the processing of larger numbers might involve language, hence the mouth, more extensively. I overview research on the neural underpinning of abstract concepts, which confirms the importance of linguistic and social neural networks for their representation. Finally, I illustrate studies on abstractness in conditions characterized by impairments in social interaction and inner and overt speech abilities, such as autism, schizophrenia, and aphasia. Overall, the studies reviewed support the idea of a determinant role of language as an inner tool supporting the acquisition and use of abstract concepts.
The Freedom of Words is for anyone interested in understanding the role of body and language in cognition and how humans developed the sophisticated ability to use abstract concepts like 'freedom' and 'thinking'. This volume adopts a transdisciplinary perspective, including philosophy, semiotics, psychology, and neuroscience, to show how language, as a tool, shapes our minds and influences our interaction with the physical and social environment. It develops a theory showing how abstract concepts in their different varieties enhance cognition and profoundly influence our social and affective life. It addresses how children learn such abstract concepts, details how they vary across languages and cultures, and outlines the link between abstractness and the capability to detect inner bodily signals. Overall, the book shows how words – abstract words in particular, because of their indeterminate and open character – grant us freedom.
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Right- and left-handed native readers of scripts with opposing directionality were tested on a facial affect judgment task in free vision. Faces with smiles in viewers' left visual field were judged happier predominantly by (right-handed) readers of the left-to-right script (Hindi) whereas a right field preference was observed among the right-to-left readers (Urdu) and among the left-handers; no preference characterized illiterate controls. These findings replicate Vaid and Singh (1989) and indicate that reading habits may influence performance even on ostensibly nonlinguistic tasks thought to measure right hemispheric functioning.
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Glendon Lean collated data on nearly 900 counting systems of Papua New Guinea, Oceania, and Irian Jaya (West Papua). Lean’s data came from a questionnaire completed by students and talks with village elders. He read old documents written in English, German, and Dutch. He made comparisons between older and new accounts of the counting systems and compared neighbouring counting systems from both Austronesian and non-Austronesian languages. His work drew attention to the rich diversity of the systems and suggested that systems based on body parts and cyclic systems developed spontaneously. Digit tally systems were also relatively common. Lean’s thesis on spontaneous developments of these ancient cultures challenged traditional theories describing the spread of number systems from Middle East cultures.
Full-text available
It is said that conventional gestures for numbers differ by culture. Conventional gestures are thought to imply consistency of form both across and within individuals. The present study tests the consistency of finger gestures of 60 participants of three different cultures and in three different mother tongues in nine different hypothetical scenarios. The first subject of analysis is whether participants differentiate between counting and signaling. The second subject is the consistency of gestures within and between groups. The third is how participants depict the number 1. Result show that most people use the same gestures for counting and signaling. In addition, Germans and English Canadians show relatively low degrees of individual differences whereas French Canadians show relatively high degrees of individual variability. Furthermore, only the Germans use the thumb to indicate the number 1, whereas the two North American cultures use the index finger. The present data suggest that finger gestures of some cultures clearly qualify as conventional gestures whereas others do not. It is suggested that the development of conventional gestures is influenced by cultural exposure, which can even result into the loosening of conventions.
Full-text available
Two experiments are reported that tested the hypothesis of transient coupling during during programming of different movements of the hands in a bimanual reaction-time (RT) task. Subjects performed bimanual movements with same or different amplitudes. Manipulation of the state of preprogramming of the amplitudes was accomplished by precues. In the first experiment the time course of preparation was traced by varying the precuing interval between 0 and 750 ms using words as precues. A clear transient cross-manual effect was found. As the precuing interval increased, the difference between the RTs of bimanual reversal movements with same and different amplitudes decreased. However, preparation of different movements did not converge completely to that of same amplitudes. Therefore, in a second experiment the range of precuing interval was extended to 1000 ms and movement-compatible precues were used, i.e., pairs of horizontal bars with same and different lengths. The expected convergence of RTs of same and different amplitudes at longer precuing intervals was confirmed. The results fit the two-level model of cross-talk that assumes that cross-talk in bimanual tasks occurs during programming and is not restricted to actual execution of the movement.
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The starting point of this study is the apparent contradiction between the existence in Yupno (Papua New Guinea) culture of an elaborate number system and the lack of importance attributed to counting in everyday life. The study is designed to answer two questions: To what extent is the model described by the socially most prestigious expert shared by other Yupno men? How can the system be used to solve new, unfamiliar problems? Indeed, the variability found in the description and use of the number system is very important, to the extent where almost each subject uses it in a slightly different, idiosyncratic way. Without the help of a psychological perspective, this astounding variability may have gone unnoticed. However, to the anthropologist, it is too early to speak of a "requiem for the omniscient informent" because the ideal model "fits" with the rest of the culture-for example, the symbolic separation between the left and right parts of the body. Arithmetic computations can be performed by the older Yupno men using the traditional Yupno system and by children using school algorithms but not by those young men who are in between two cultures.
Approximate processing of numerosities is a universal and preverbal skill, while exact number processing above 4 involves the use of culturally acquired number words and symbols. The authors first review core concepts of numerical cognition, including number representation in the brain and the influential view that numbers are associated with space along a “mental number line.” Then, they discuss how cultural influences, such as reading direction, finger counting, and the transparency of the number word system, can influence the representation and processing of numbers. Spatial mapping of numbers emerges as a universal cognitive strategy. The authors trace the impact of cultural factors on the development of number skills and conclude that a cross-cultural perspective can reveal important constraints on numerical cognition.
Are aesthetic preferences associated with directional reading/writing habits or with cerebral laterality? To answer this question, 138 right-handed and non-right-handed Arabic, Hebrew, and Russian readers were presented with pairs of facial and bodily profiles; one member of each pair was turning to the left, and the other was turning to the right. The participants determined their aesthetic preferences for one member of each pair. If aesthetic preferences are associated with laterality, differential preferences were expected for right-handers and non-right-handers. However, if these preferences are linked to reading/writing habits, differential preferences were expected for Arabic and Hebrew readers who read and write from right to left and Russian readers who read and write from left to right. Data analyses showed that Arabic and Hebrew readers preferred both facial and bodily profiles that turned to the right, whereas Russian readers preferred the profiles that turned to the left. The data were interpreted as showing that aesthetic preferences are associated primarily with reading/writing habits.
I Number Words.- 1 Introduction and Overview of Different Uses of Number Words.- 2 The Number-Word Sequence: An Overview of Its Acquisition and Elaboration.- II Correspondence Errors in Counting Objects.- 3 Correspondence Errors in Children's Counting.- 4 Effects of Object Arrangement on Counting Correspondence Errors and on the Indicating Act.- 5 Effects of Object Variables and Age of Counter on Correspondence Errors Made When Counting Objects in Rows.- 6 Correspondence Errors in Children's Counting: A Summary.- III Concepts of Cardinality.- 7 Children's Early Knowledge About Relationships Between Counting and Cardinality.- 8 Later Conceptual Relationships Between Counting and Cardinality: Addition and Subtraction of Cardinal Numbers.- 9 Uses of Counting and Matching in Cardinal Equivalence Situations: Equivalence and Order Relations on Cardinal Numbers.- IV Number Words, Counting, and Cardinality: The Increasing Integration of Sequence, Count, and Cardinal Meanings.- 10 Early Relationships Among Sequence Number Words, Counting Correspondence, and Cardinality.- 11 An Overview of Changes in Children's Number Word Concepts from Age 2 Through 8.- References.- Author Index.