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Study suggests that walking enhances performance in making additions and subtractions

Posted December 1, 2014

Mathematics is sometimes associated with the world of abstract ideas. However, our mathematical abilities are influenced by various earthly factors. For instance, walking affects our ability to do simple arithmetic calculations.

Picture: Walking. Image credit: Atilla Kefeli via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0.

Picture: Walking. Image credit: Atilla Kefeli via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0.

This is one of the conclusions of the recent study published on Frontiers in Psychology. “Data revealed a congruency effect between the direction of the whole body motions and the orientation inferred by the type of calculation processes (i.e., leftward for subtractions and rightward for addictions),” Filomena Anelli and her colleagues working at the University of Bologna say.

Rising number of behavioral scientists investigates relationship between our cognition and various bodily factors. This promising research agenda reveals how our mental life is embodied. “However, so far few evidence revealed that also abstract concepts are based on sensory-motor experiences. Since numbers constitute an example of abstract concepts, studies on numerical cognition are particularly important to fill this gap,” Italian researchers note.

Anelli and her associates investigated what effect whole body motion exerts on processing of basic arithmetic exercises. Previous studies showed that rightward bias towards addition and leftward bias towards subtraction exists. They explored how students of Bologna University solve mathematical problems while walking in the park.

“We hypothesized a congruency effect between the spatial orientation related to the type of calculation performed (i.e., subtractions-leftward orientation and additions-rightward orientation) and the direction of the motion contemporary experienced (i.e., leftward and rightward motion),” the scholars say. They showed that walking boosts performance of arithmetic operation.

Importantly, predicted congruency effect was observed. Psychologists observed congruency between type of mathematical calculation and type of movement. Movement to the right side facilitated addition and movement towards the left side enhanced subtraction. “Hence, the present findings confirm the existence of a connection among numbers, space, and motor processes, by showing the emergence of a congruency effect when subtractions and additions were calculated while moving also along an horizontal axis,” authors of this study conclude.

Article: Anelli F, Lugli L, Baroni G, Borghi AM and Nicoletti R, 2014, Walking boosts your performance in making additions and subtractions. Frontiers in Psychology. 5:1459. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01459, source link.

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