Psychological Research

, Volume 78, Issue 4, pp 549–556 | Cite as

The impact of finger counting habits on arithmetic in adults and children

  • Sharlene D. NewmanEmail author
  • Firat Soylu
Original Article


Here, we explored the impact of finger counting habits on arithmetic in both adults and children. Two groups of participants were examined, those that begin counting with their left hand (left-starters) and those that begin counting with their right hand (right-starters). For the adults, performance on an addition task in which participants added 2 two-digit numbers was compared. The results revealed that left-starters were slower than right-starters when adding and they had lower forward and backward digit-span scores. The children (aged 5–12) showed similar results on a single-digit timed addition task—right-starters outperformed left-starters. However, the children did not reveal differences in working memory or verbal and non-verbal intelligence as a function of finger counting habit. We argue that the motor act of finger counting influences how number is represented and suggest that left-starters may have a more bilateral representation that accounts for the slower processing.


Work Memory Capacity Digit Span Right Hemisphere Addition Task Number Processing 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was funded by a grant from Indiana University (FRSP). I would like to thank Roy Seo, Jessica Denton, Lynnsey Cline, Galen Hartman, Priyanka Ghosh and Taylor Hurst for the assistance with data collection.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychological and Brain SciencesIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  2. 2.School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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