Left-Handed vs. Right-Handed: Does Your Dominant Hand Predict Your Decision-Making Process?


Home / Left-Handed vs. Right-Handed: Does Your Dominant Hand Predict Your Decision-Making Process?

Decision-making processes change as one changes dominant hands: Photo by U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jhi L. Scott

Do you make decisions based on right or left-handedness?

According to researchers, 90 percent of people are dominantly right-handed, and use their right hands to do most daily activities, including writing, opening doors and bottles, using a computer’s mouse, and holding a cell phone. The remaining 10 percent of people, however interact with the world with the other hand, sometimes with unusual gestures or positions.

New research shows that the ways in which we interact with our physical environments can shape our decision-making processes as well.

“Right” Equals “Good,” “Left” Equals “Bad”

Are you left-handed or right-handed? Image by Eastop

Dr. Daniel Casasanto, a cognitive scientist with the New School for Social Research, examined how your dominant hand can predict your decision-making. In the study, right-handed people preferred items, other people, and interactions located to their right, while left-handed people predominantly selected persons and things located to their left.

Dr. Casasanto, in an interview with Decoded Science, stated that the “good” vs. “bad” correlation occurs in spite of the subject’s upbringing.

… left-handers think left is good, at least unconsciously, in spite of everything that language and culture tells them.  Left-handers have to use the same social conventions and linguistic idioms as right-handers: they don’t get to shake hands with their left hand, or say that the correct answer is the “left” answer.  What this means is that, in this case, bodily experience trumps linguistic and cultural experience when it comes to our associations of “left” and “right” with “good” and “bad.” 

Experience Vs. Handicaps

Our experiences shape our thinking, and when our experiences change, so do our perceptions. Dr. Casasanto explains,

… the association of “good” with our dominant side of space is normally reinforced by lifetime of experience: Normally we can use our dominant hand more fluently than our nondominant hand, so we think our dominant side is the good side.  But if the way use our hands changes, our judgments follow.  Right-handers who’ve had their right hands permanently handicapped start to associate ‘good’ with ‘left.’ 

The same goes for righties whose ‘good’ hand is temporarily handicapped in the laboratory, by placing a bulky ski glove on it while they perform a task that requires fine motor control (i.e., arranging dominoes on a tabletop). After a few minutes of fumbling with their right hand, natural righties start to think ‘good’ is ‘left’, just like natural lefties.  If you change people’s bodies, you change their minds.  

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