Cardinal and Ordinal Aspects of Finger-Counting Habits Predict Different Individual Differences in Embodied Numerosity


  • Kyle Morrissey
  • Darcy Hallett


The hand with which one starts to count has been shown repeatedly to influence numerical performance. However, methods vary greatly in how researchers determine starting hand. As such, it is impossible to say whether starting hand reflects one construct that is being differently measured, or if these methods reflect different constructs. To investigate these possibilities, we employed a binary magnitude comparison task known to elicit spatial-numerical biases and embodied number magnitude effects, as well as both cardinal and ordinal assessments of starting hand. In addition to this, we further examined whether being made aware of one’s finger-counting habits prior to the numerical task (through a finger-counting inventory) may alter performance during a spatial-numerical reaction-time task. Ordinal and cardinal starting hand classifications disagreed significantly in their classification of left vs. right-starters and predicted different aspects of numerical performance, which further interacted with procedure-order. The pattern of results suggest that 1) ordinal and cardinal aspects of finger-counting are dissociable and predict differing aspects of embodied numerosity, and 2) that assessing finger counting habits before performing a numerical task may affect performance on that task. Therefore, these methodological variations have important theoretical ramifications and need to be reported in greater detail in future work.