Stimulating numbers: signatures of finger counting in numerosity processing

  • Elena Sixtus
  • Oliver Lindemann
  • Martin H. Fischer
Original Article


Finger counting is one of the first steps in the development of mature number concepts. With a one-to-one correspondence of fingers to numbers in Western finger counting, fingers hold two numerical meanings: one is based on the number of fingers raised and the second is based on their ordinal position within the habitual finger counting sequence. This study investigated how these two numerical meanings of fingers are intertwined with numerical cognition in adults. Participants received tactile stimulation on their fingertips of one hand and named either the number of fingers stimulated (2, 3, or 4 fingers; Experiment 1) or the number of stimulations on one fingertip (2, 3, or 4 stimulations; Experiment 2). Responses were faster and more accurate when the set of stimulated fingers corresponded to finger counting habits (Experiment 1) and when the number of stimulations matched the ordinal position of the stimulated finger (Experiment 2). These results show that tactile numerosity perception is affected by individual finger counting habits and that those habits give numerical meaning to single fingers.



This research was supported by DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) Grant Fi-1915/2 - 1 “manumerical cognition”.


This study was funded by DFG (Grant number Fi-1915/2 - 1 on “manumerical cognition”).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All experiments of the study were conducted in accordance with the ethical standards expressed in the Declaration of Helsinki.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Cognitive Sciences, Department of PsychologyUniversity of PotsdamPotsdamGermany
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, Education and Child StudiesErasmus UniversityRotterdamThe Netherlands

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