Cross-Cultural and Intra-Cultural Differences in Finger-Counting Habits and Number Magnitude Processing: Embodied Numerosity in Canadian and Chinese University Students

Kyle Richard Morrissey, Mowei Liu, Jingmei Kang, Darcy Hallett, Qiangqiang Wang


Recent work in numerical cognition has shown-that number magnitude is not entirely abstract, and at least partly rooted in embodied and situated experiences, including finger-counting. The current study extends previous cross-cultural research to address within-culture individual differences in finger counting habits. Results indicated that Canadian participants demonstrated an additional cognitive load when comparing numbers that require more than one hand to represent, and this pattern of performance is further modulated by whether they typically start counting on their left hand or their right hand. Chinese students typically count on only one hand and so show no such effect, except for an increase in errors, similar to that seen in Canadians, for those whom self-identify as predominantly two-hand counters. Results suggest that the impact of finger counting habits extend beyond cultural experience and concord in predictable ways with differences in number magnitude processing for specific number-digits. We conclude that symbolic number magnitude processing is partially rooted in learned finger-counting habits, consistent with a motor simulation account of embodied numeracy and that argument is supported by both cross-cultural and within-culture differences in finger-counting habits.


magnitude, Chinese, finger-counting, embodied cognition, individual differences

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Copyright (c) 2016 Morrissey; Liu; Kang; Hallett; Wang