Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Embodied Finger Counting in Children with Different Cultural Backgrounds and Hand Dominance

Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Embodied Finger Counting in Children with Different Cultural Backgrounds and Hand Dominance

Article excerpt

Pages: 86-92

DOI: 10.11621/pir.2017.0408

Keywords: embodied numerosity, finger counting, cross-cultural research, individual differences, hand dominance

Downloads: 38


Rosenbaum (2005) mentioned that little attention had been paid to movement control in psychological research, naming this area the “Cinderella of Psychology,” and urging that it play a more important role in the future. Whereas linguistic tests encounter problems with exact interpretation when translated into other languages or if they are missing values describing context with regard to different cultural views and perceptions, movements are more universal and less biased when we wish to compare results in cross-cultural studies. On the one hand, movements can follow an unconscious pattern when a person selects the optimal way to do something (Rosenbaum et al., 1991), sometimes even the same way in humans and animals. On the other hand, movements are related to perception, emotion, and cognition, in that there are individual differences (Rosenbaum et al., 2012; Liutsko et al., 2012; Iglesias et al., 2014; Liutsko et al., 2015).

Since culture and ethnicity are complex constructs and should not be manipulated to look for “superiority” in comparisons, it has been suggested to compare variables that are distinct in these cultures and thus to consider cultural differences as a set of variables of individual differences (Gasquoine, 1999). Previous studies have shown some individual differences between representatives of different cultures in fine motor skills (Liutsko & Tous, 2014) and memory (Gutchess & Indeck, 2009), among others. The better performance in fine motor skills and math in East Asian-American children was found to be significant, thus showing the predictive relationship of the construct in motor skills and math achievements (Luo et al., 2007).

Cultural differences in neuropsychological assessment are very important in occupational therapy and psychological work (Chui et al., 2007). In general, numerosity was found to have a similarity in the neural code across species (Piazza & Izard, 2009). However, in finger counting habits from 1 to 10, Lindemann, Alipour, and Fisher (2011) reported differences between Middle Eastern (Iranian) and Western individuals (European and American) that resulted in clear cross-cultural differences in the hand and finger starting preference. Whereas the first group preferred to start counting with the right hand and preferred to map the number 1 to their little finger, the second group preferred the left hand and the thumb. Another study in a French population aged 4 to 24 (Sato & Lalain, 2008), independently of the age group, revealed a strong tendency to use first the right hand to count from 1 to 5 and then the left hand to count from 6 to 10.

The embodied cognition framework revealed that neural systems for perception and action were engaged during higher cognitive processes; thus it was shown in fMRI studies that individual finger-counting habits modulate motor cortex activation to number processing (Tschentscher et al., 2012) and spatial-numerical associations (Fischer, 2008; Fischer & Brugger, 2011). Moeller et al. (2012) evaluated whether the concept of embodied numerosity should be generalized beyond finger-based representations, with particular focus on whether bodily-sensory experiences (such as moving the whole body along the mental number line) may correlate with numerical capabilities. In a previous review (Moeller et al., 2011), they discussed the results of various studies that revealed an important debate between neurocognitive researchers and mathematics education researchers concerning finger-based strategies for numerical development. They also mentioned that some recent studies supported the hypothesis that children with good finger-based numerical representations show better arithmetic skills and that training finger gnosis, or "finger sense," enhances mathematical skills (Moeller et al. …

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