Right-handers, but not left-handers, are biased to select their dominant hand

March 8, 2011

The vast majority of humans – over 90% – prefer to use their right hand for most skilled tasks. For decades, researchers have been trying to understand why this asymmetry exists. Why, with our two cerebral hemispheres and motor cortices, are we not equally skilled with both hands? A study from the University of Aberdeen in the UK, published in the April 2011 issue of Cortex, suggests that the explanation may stem from actions that require us to use both hands at the same time, which may bias right-handers toward choosing their right hands.

Gavin Buckingham, now a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Brain and Mind at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, and his PhD supervisor Dr. David Carey, asked left- and right-handed participants to reach first toward a pair of targets with both hands at the same time and, immediately afterwards, toward a new single target with only their closest . Just before they began the reach, subjects were given a short vibratory pulse on one of their hands, giving them a clue about where the new target would appear, and hence which hand should perform this second portion of the reach. On a small proportion of trials, the pulse was given to the wrong hand, which meant that subjects had to restrain the reach with this incorrectly-cued hand in order to make the reach with the correct hand.

The right-handed subjects had far greater trouble dealing with this incorrect cue when it was given to their right hands, making more mistakes and taking longer to successfully inhibit the reaches, almost as if the right hand was already pre-selected to carry on during the bimanual reach. The left-handed subjects showed no such asymmetries, suggesting that they are less inherently biased to select one hand over the other.

These findings build on a series of studies from the same researchers which have indicated that right-handers have their attention largely directed at their right hands during bimanual tasks. "One explanation for these data is that hand choice is related to hemispheric specialisation for speech and language" says Dr Carey. "Many left-handed people have "right-handed" brains, which weakens the typical bias towards choosing their dominant left hand."

More information: The article is "Asymmetries in motor attention during a cued bimanual reaching task: Left and right handers compared" by Gavin Buckingham, Julie C. Main, David P. Carey, and appears in Cortex, Volume 47, Issue 4 (April 2011) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/00109452

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Half of people believe fake facts

December 7, 2016

Many people are prone to 'remembering' events that never happened, according to new research by the University of Warwick.

MRI scans detect 'brain rust' in schizophrenia

December 7, 2016

A damaging chemical imbalance in the brain may contribute to schizophrenia, according to research presented at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Annual Meeting in Hollywood, Florida.

Helping children achieve more in school

December 7, 2016

Not all children do well in school, despite being intellectually capable. Whilst parental relationships, motivation and self-concept all have a role to play, a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Squirrel
not rated yet Mar 09, 2011
Not necessarily inherent. It could be that left handers living in world created around the convenience of right handers encounter an advantage in being able to readily use either hand that is not encountered by right handers.

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.