Finger counting habits in Middle Eastern and Western individuals: An online survey

Oliver Lindemann, Ahmad Alipour, Martin H. Fischer

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    103 Citations (Scopus)


    The current study documents the presence of cultural differences in the development of finger counting strategies. About 900 Middle Eastern (i.e., Iranian) and Western (i.e., European and American) individuals reported in an online survey how they map numbers onto their fingers when counting from 1 to 10. The analysis of these bimanual counting patterns revealed clear cross-cultural differences in the hand and finger starting preferences: While most Western individuals started counting with the left hand and associated the number 1 with their thumb, most Middle Eastern respondents preferred to start counting with the right hand and preferred to map the number 1 onto their little finger. The transition between the two hands during counting showed equal proportions of symmetry-based and spatial continuity-based patterns in the two cultures. Implications of these findings for numerical cognition and for the origin of the well-known association between numbers and space are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)566-578
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - May 2011


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