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The way you count on your fingers can insightfully reveal much more about you, says study

Research was done to understand how finger counting can reveal a lot about a person's cognitive abilities and it's intriguing.
PUBLISHED JUN 27, 2024
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels| Yan Krukau
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels| Yan Krukau

When a person is told to count something on their fingers, they very reflexively begin to shoot up each finger to count. As simple as the process seems, on further observance, one would notice that there are different ways people approach counting. For instance, some may begin counting with their thumbs while others will immediately start with their index fingers. There are even more methods in dactylonomy, the art of counting, per BBC News

Representative Image Source: Pexels| Yan Krukau
Representative Image Source: Pexels| Yan Krukau

 The interesting part is, that there is more to discover about a person by the way they count. The method one uses can greatly tell a lot about a person’s abilities concerning specific factors. On an impressive note, the word “digit” synonymously used with the term “number” or “numeral” comes from the Latin word “digitus” which is translated to toe or finger. This term was allotted with special reference to the way people count using their fingers. The way a person counts on their fingers can be greatly influenced by the area or region they live in.

Representative Image Source: Pexels| KATRIN  BOLOVTSOVA
Representative Image Source: Pexels| KATRIN BOLOVTSOVA

People living in European areas or in the UK are likely to begin counting with their thumb while those in the US start with their index fingers. A more unique pattern of counting is observed in Asian regions. Japan uses a counting method where the count begins on the index finger but is extended to the palm before moving to the next hand. On the other hand, Indians often make 15 to 20 segments on each hand from the sections of the fingers to count, per The Guardian. This gives a rich insight into what geographical background a person may hold.

Representative Image Source: Pexels| Yan Krukau
Representative Image Source: Pexels| Yan Krukau

Andrea Bender, a professor of cognition, culture and language at the University of Bergen, Norway, shared her input on the study of finger counting. She said, “What struck me was that most researchers treated it as if there was just one way of counting with your fingers.” She added, “We know a little about how much diversity is possible, but we have no idea yet of how big the differences actually can be.” Bender and Sieghard Beller researched the topic and produced a few findings in a report in Cognition Magazine

They mentioned that apart from understanding culture, one can also derive arithmetic excellence from one’s counting abilities. The study suggested that finger counting can have a lot to do with numerical cognition. Using the example of children learning to count using their fingers, it was proposed that there may be a link between fingers and mathematical understanding in humans. The way numerical information is represented and perceived mentally somehow has a connection with finger-counting efficiency. It added that there is a numerical meaning attached to fingers and body parts that are still to be explained and studied better.

Representative Image Source: Pexels| Nothing Ahead
Representative Image Source: Pexels| Nothing Ahead

Moreover, the study concluded, “Finger counting represents something of a stroke of luck, due to its hybrid position: With its recruitment of body parts, on the one hand, it is naturally available and potentially universal; on the other hand, it is cognitively instrumental, as it persistently interacts with cognitive development and performance.”  

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