Canonical finger-numeral configurations facilitate the processing of Arabic numerals in adults: An Event-Related Potential study

F.C.G. Van den Berg, P. De Weerd, L.M. Jonkman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Various studies claim that early-learned, culture-typical (canonical) finger configurations used to communicate or represent numerosity, have stronger connections to numerical concepts stored in long-term memory than cultural-unfamiliar finger configurations, thereby allowing for faster access to their numerical meaning. The current study investigated whether presentation of canonical finger configurations gesturing numerosities 1-4 or 6-9 would facilitate young adults' behavioral and neural processing of Arabic numerals. Thirty-one adults performed a number comparison task in which they had to decide whether simultaneously presented Arabic numerals and canonical or non-canonical finger configurations showed the same or a different numerosity, while measuring their performance and Event-Related Potentials (ERPs). The results showed faster responses when comparisons involved canonical (versus non-canonical) finger configurations, but only on numerosity-congruent trials where finger configuration and Arabic numeral matched in number identity. Canonical, and small-number finger configurations 1-4 in general (irrespective of their canonicity), also elicited enhanced amplitude of the early right-parietal P2p, and the later centro-parietal P3 on numerosity-congruent trials. We suggest these P2p and P3 findings respectively reflect facilitated numerical access and easier categorization of canonical finger-numeral configurations. The current results provide behavioral and neurophysiological evidence for the embodiment of culture-specific, canonical, finger-numeral configurations, and their link with other number representations in the adult brain, likely emerging from their more frequent use in daily life communication and/or in early childhood during number symbol acquisition.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108214
Number of pages14
Early online date19 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2022


  • ERP
  • Embodiment
  • Event-related brain potentials
  • Finger-numeral configurations
  • Number gestures
  • Numerical processing
  • Numerical range


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