60-Second Mind

Right-Handers Tend to Prefer the Right Side

Recent research in the journal Psychological Science found that righties tend to prefer the right side of anything (spatially speaking) and lefties the left. Christie Nicholson reports

Here's a test. It's an odd question…but do you tend to prefer the right side or the left side of anything?

It turns out that right-handed folks prefer the right and lefties prefer the left. The preference informs the choice of one of a pair of products, two job applicants, even a couple of alien creatures.

Researchers theorize that since people have better control of their dominant hand they unconsciously associate good things with what’s called their "fluent side of space." To test this idea, scientists studied the reaction of stroke patients who had lost the use of their so-called "fluent hand." These patients flipped the natural bias and associated "good" with the side that they were now forced to use.

Even more striking, the same results were found when healthy right-handed subjects were forced to become lefties. They had to wear a bulky ski glove on their agile hand while arranging dominos for 12 minutes. The subjects were then moved to another room and in a separate experiment they showed lefty bias, choosing to place items considered to be "good" in a box on the left.

We'd like to feel we make choices based on solid reasoning. But that’s not necessarily right. Or is it left?

—Christie Nicholson

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