What Do the Hands Externalize in Simple Arithmetic?

Richard A. Carlson, Marios N. Avraamides, Melanie Cary, Stephen Strasberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


In 4 experiments, the authors examined the use of the hands in simple arithmetic tasks. Experiments 1 and 2 demonstrated that pointing increases both accuracy and speed in counting arrays of items, whether those items are identical or distinctive. Experiment 3 demonstrated that individuals tend to nod their heads when not allowed to point and that nodding is associated with greater accuracy, suggesting that pointing is functional for reasons other than simply providing additional visual information. Experiment 4 examined changes in speech when adding arrays of digits, depending on whether participants were allowed to use their hands to manipulate the tokens on which the digits were presented. Taken together, the results of these experiments are consistent with recent research suggesting that gesture can serve cognitive functions and that the hands can support the binding of representational elements to their functional roles by providing phase markers for cyclic cognitive processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)747-756
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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