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A large-scale survey on finger counting routines, their temporal stability and flexibility in educated adults

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posted on 29.04.2020, 15:24 by Mateusz Hohol, Kinga Wołoszyn, Hans-Christoph Nuerk, Krzysztof CiporaKrzysztof Cipora
A strong link between bodily activity and number processing has been established in recent years. Although numerous observations indicate that adults use finger counting (FC) in various contexts of everyday life for different purposes, existing knowledge of FC routines and their use is still limited. In particular, it remains unknown how stable the (default) FC habits are over time and how flexible they can be. To investigate these questions, 380 Polish participants completed a questionnaire on their FC routines, the stability of these routines, and the context of FC usage, preceded by the request to count on their fingers from 1 to 10. Next, the test–retest stability of FC habits was examined in 84 participants 2 months following the first session. To the best of our knowledge, such a study design has been adopted for the first time. The results indicate that default FC routines of the majority of participants (75%) are relatively stable over time. At the same time, FC routines can flexibly adapt according to the situation (e.g., when holding an object). As regards prevalence, almost all participants, in line with previous findings on Western individuals, declared starting from the closed palm and extending consecutive fingers. Furthermore, we observed relations between FC preferences and handedness (more left-handers start from the left hand) and that actual finger use is still widespread in healthy adults for a variety of activities (the most prevalent uses of FC are listing elements, presenting arguments and plans, and calendar calculations). In sum, the results show the practical relevance of FC in adulthood, the relative stability of preferences over time along with flexible adaptation to a current situation, as well as an association of FC routines with handedness. Taken together our results suggest that FC is the phenomenon, which is moderated or mediated by multiple embodied factors.


National Science Centre, Poland: 2015/19/B/HS1/03310; 2017/25/N/HS6/01052.

Foundation for Polish Science (FNP).

Deutche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation): NU 265/3-1.

LEAD Graduate School & Research Network: GSC1028.



  • Science


  • Mathematics Education Centre

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This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.

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Dr Krzysztof Cipora. Deposit date: 28 April 2020

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