Is your left hand more motivated than your right hand?

June 29, 2010

Motivation doesn't have to be conscious; your brain can decide how much it wants something without input from your conscious mind. Now a new study shows that both halves of your brain don't even have to agree. Motivation can happen in one side of the brain at a time.

Psychologists used to think that motivation was a conscious process. You know you want something, so you try to get it. But a few years ago, Mathias Pessiglione, of the Brain & Spine Institute in Paris, and his colleagues showed that motivation could be subconscious; when people saw subliminal pictures of a reward, even if they didn't know what they'd seen, they would try harder for a bigger reward.

In the earlier study, volunteers were shown pictures of either a one-euro coin or a one-cent coin for a tiny fraction of a second. Then they were told to squeeze a pressure-sensing handgrip; the harder they squeezed it, the more of the coin they would get. The image was subliminal, so volunteers didn't know how big a coin they were squeezing for, but they would still squeeze harder for one euro than one cent. That result showed that motivation didn't have to be conscious.

For the new study, in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, Pessiglione and his colleagues Liane Schmidt, Stefano Palminteri, and Gilles Lafargue wanted to know if they could dig even farther down and show that one side of the brain could be motivated at a time. The test started with having the subject focus on a cross in the middle of the computer screen. Then the motivational coin - one euro or one cent - was shown on one side of the visual field. People were only subliminally motivated when the coin appeared on the same side of the visual field as the squeezing hand. For example, if the coin was on the right and they were squeezing with the right hand, they would squeeze harder for a euro than for a cent. But if the subliminal coin appeared on the left and they were squeezing on the right, they wouldn't squeeze any harder for a euro.

The research shows that it's possible for only one side of the brain, and thus one side of the body, to be motivated at a time, says Pessiglione. "It changes the conception we have about . It's a weird idea, that your left hand, for instance, could be more motivated than your right ." He says this basic research helps scientists understand how the two sides of the get along to drive our behavior.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Illusion reveals that the brain fills in peripheral vision

December 8, 2016

What we see in the periphery, just outside the direct focus of the eye, may sometimes be a visual illusion, according to new findings published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (4) Jun 29, 2010
It's true; but it's usually my right hand that is more motivated when I see certain pictures.
Jun 29, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
not rated yet Jun 29, 2010
I have come to believe that the hemispheres of the brain are separately conscious, like conjoined twins if you will. However, one hemisphere learns to dominate the other, and in many people, the other hemisphere leads a very neglected, withdrawn life. I think this may be why multiple personality disorders tend to have two personalities, and why we have BIpolar disorder, manic depressive... etc. I don't really have anything other than my own observation to go on though.

In some people, I believe the hemispheres do not have one side dominate the other, these are our Einsteins, Copernici, Sagans, DiVincis, etc. Some people may have switching control, or poor control of the speech pathways...

I do believe we'll know for sure about these mysteries very soon.
not rated yet Jun 30, 2010
My left hand became highly motivated about when I turned thirteen.
not rated yet Jun 30, 2010
I thought that the left hand side of the brain, controlled the right hand and vice versa?

How can we use that research to improve our self motivation?
not rated yet Aug 16, 2010
The intersting thing is the similar studues ahve been known to work exactly the same with psychic studies, where the coin value/type is not known by any or either party until it is opened (random generation or similar).

The person tries harder for the larger coin to level that is indisputably ~well beyond~ random selection.


The reason I mention this, is that it most definitely calls into question the base idea of subliminal theory.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.