Tactile Enumeration and Embodied Numerosity Among the Deaf

Shachar Hochman, Zahira Z. Cohen, Mattan S. Ben-Shachar, Avishai Henik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Representations of the fingers are embodied in our cognition and influence performance in enumeration tasks. Among deaf signers, the fingers also serve as a tool for communication in sign language. Previous studies in normal hearing (NH) participants showed effects of embodiment (i.e., embodied numerosity) on tactile enumeration using the fingers of one hand. In this research, we examined the influence of extensive visuo-manual use on tactile enumeration among the deaf. We carried out four enumeration task experiments, using 1–5 stimuli, on a profoundly deaf group (n = 16) and a matching NH group (n = 15): (a) tactile enumeration using one hand, (b) tactile enumeration using two hands, (c) visual enumeration of finger signs, and (d) visual enumeration of dots. In the tactile tasks, we found salient embodied effects in the deaf group compared to the NH group. In the visual enumeration of finger signs task, we controlled the meanings of the stimuli presentation type (e.g., finger-counting habit, fingerspelled letters, both or neither). Interestingly, when comparing fingerspelled letters to neutrals (i.e., not letters or numerical finger-counting signs), an inhibition pattern was observed among the deaf. The findings uncover the influence of rich visuo-manual experiences and language on embodied representations. In addition, we propose that these influences can partially account for the lag in mathematical competencies in the deaf compared to NH peers. Lastly, we further discuss how our findings support a contemporary model for mental numerical representations and finger-counting habits.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12880
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2020


  • Deaf cognition
  • Embodied numerosity
  • Finger counting
  • Numerical cognition
  • Sign language
  • Tactile enumeration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence


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