Incidental counting: Speeded number naming through finger movements

Elena Sixtus*, Oliver Lindemann, Martin H. Fischer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
37 Downloads (Pure)


The first steps in numerical cognition are usually done in conjunction with fingers. Following the assumption that abstract concepts stay associated with the sensory-motor information that was present during their acquisition and consolidation, mental number representations should always be associated with the respective finger counting components. We tested whether finger movements that imply finger counting actually prime the corresponding number concepts in adults. All participants counted number 1 with their thumb and incremented sequentially to number 5 with their pinky. In the experiment, participants sequentially and repeatedly pressed five buttons from thumb to pinky. Each button press triggered the visual presentation of a random number between 1 and 5 that had to be named aloud, resulting in 20% counting-congruent and 80% counting-incongruent finger-number mappings. Average naming latencies were significantly shorter for congruent than incongruent finger-number combinations. Furthermore, there was a distance effect where primes partly co-activated numerically close target numbers and with decreasing priming for more distant prime-target pairs. Overall, these results provide further evidence that number representations are strongly associated with finger counting experience, making fingers an effective tool for number comprehension.

Original languageEnglish
Article number44
JournalJournal of Cognition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by DFG (grant number Fi-1915/2-1 on “Manumerical cognition”).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Ubiquity Press. All rights reserved.

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