Do designers use left or right hand (and to what extent)?

aric's picture

This thread was inspired by the discussion on brain hemisphere dominance. Diagnosing brain hemisphere dominance is rather tricky, and society has associated some mythical properties with hemisphere dominance that have not been supported by science. But one trait that's somewhat related to hemisphere dominance, and much easier to diagnose, is handedness.

For present purposes, I suggest we discuss handedness in terms of the Edinburgh Handedness Inventory. It's not a perfect instrument (there isn't one for assessing handedness)--it has a bias toward mixed handedness. But it's more widely available than any other common handedness diagnostic. So if you're game, spend a moment at and report your score. And feel free to share thoughts, anecdotes, etc. about handedness.

My laterality quotient is -50.0. I'm primarily a lefty, but there are some things I prefer to do with my right hand, especially throwing and tooth-brushing. And most of the things on the Edinburgh list other than writing or drawing I generally (but not exclusively) do left-handed.

Left-handedness is in my genes. My father is much more left-handed than me, my mother about as much. I have two left-handed siblings; one is very left-handed and the other more like mom and me. And I have five right-handed siblings who are all very right-handed as far as I know. With five lefties and five righties, handedness was an important consideration, especially around the dinner table.

pattyfab's picture

David - jeez just because I said your fonts were expensive a few months ago do you need to attack everything I say?

dezcom's picture

I just took the test and: "This subject's laterality quotient is: 57.1
Placing this subject in the 1st right decile."

I guess this means I am half-ass righthanded :-)
While I was a fresman in design school, I badly sprained my right thumb. I spent much of that year drawing left-handedto avoid pain. I still consider myself to be right-handed like everyone else in my family.


david h's picture

Sorry Bill. This post was originally chiseled in stone :^) First, you're right (The original Hebrew script......are laid down right to left). Second....

Early History of the Alphabet: An Introduction to West Semitic Epigraphy and Paleography — Joseph Naveh, pp. 2-5:

Excluding the Ugaritic texts, which are written in alphabetic cuneiform script on clay tablets [*] , the material can be divided into two main groups: inscriptions made with a pointed instrument, mainly on stone or metal, and manuscripts written in ink on papyrus, parchment and even on postherds.....

...types of inscriptions:

Graffiiti — these are short inscriptions which consist generally of a proper name incised on various objects as a sign of ownership

Votive inscriptions are written on objects that are dedicated to deities

Burial inscriptions or epitaphs

Memorial stelae

Turning to inscriptions written in ink, we shall begin by mentioning the simplest text, the dipinto, which resembles the graffito except that the letters are painted instead of incised. As a rule, ink was used for writing on papyrus or parchment, but less important texts were also written on postherds, called ostraca


[*] also The Story of writing — Andrew Robinson (Thames & Hudson, second edition 1995 & 2007) page 82: the majority of cuneiform inscriptions are written on clay.... [also baked clay] The stylus was usually made of reed [and sometimes bone or metal].

and also The Bible and The Ancient Near East — Essays in Honor of William Foxwell Albright ( A Doubleday Anchor Book, 1961 & 1965)

mjpatrick's picture

I came in at 100. The scenarios are limited. I have no desire to be equally adept with a broom using my left hand. That's not a right hand dominance thing going on so much as just that I get bored cleaning in general and just want to get it over with.

On the other hand (... sorry) I play guitar 2 hours a day, fretting with my left hand and strumming with my right. Strumming is more wrist-based and is really, for me, the easy part.

I have spent countless hours working on developing "finger independence" by doing specific drills on the guitar, using a Gripmaster or the following: Lay your fretting hand flat on a table and try to lift each finger one at a time without any of the others popping up. Oh, and lift those fingers HIGH too. :-) Once you get that down, build up speed... then work on lifting up the index and ring finger at the same time while keeping the others down, doing the same with the middle and pinky fingers.

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Hello All..

Not too many people know that Jeremiah is todays English approximation of the more scholarly form, Yirmeyahu. Jesus is also approximated from hebrew characters that render as Yeshua. But those scholarly translations can only be approximations too. The Hebrews only wrote in consonants. The is particularly important in reference to the Tetragrammaton- the Divine Name. They did so, not only on stone but on clay and parchment stretched from the skins of animals. And of course, cork tree and papyrus based papers.

The Jews (of biblical times) were all educated and literate as daily reading/inculcation of the holy writings (the "Law of Moses" and of course the rest of the holy writings encompassing the hebrew scriptures) was required and an integral part of worship- from early youth and never ending. If memory serves me correctly Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek were all in use at the time of the christian greek scriptures (the second half of the bible).

dberlow's picture

"David - ... do you need to attack everything I say?"
My apologies. (see how that works?)

One of my first posts on this site was on the topic of lateral dominance. There, I pointed out the means by which a person can find their eye. Since then, I made a list of the things that are lateral, so folks can think beyond their hands: Sighting, fighting, lighting, biting and writing. :)


pattyfab's picture

Not to beat a dead horse here, but Leonard Lopate on National Public Radio did a very cool feature today on handedness - current wisdom favors a gene for right-handedness that is somehow absent in the left-handed.

Here's a link, scroll down

The experts on this show go into some interesting detail on lateral dominance - the right hand specializes in mechanics and the left hand in stabilization for example. So both have necessary tasks. They also did brain imaging scans on people who have "switched" hands and found evidence that your original hand preference still leaves a signature in the brain scan. Interestingly it is easier to train your "wrong" hand to do fine motor skills than to do skills involving strength which may be why Ralf insists handedness doesn't exist, since he can play the piano with both hands.

aric's picture

Interesting. What the scientists said about fine motor skills does seem to agree with Ralf's theory. I was also intrigued by the comments on the genetic and neurological components of handedness. It would be interesting to look at their theory in more detail. Thanks for the link.

ralf h.'s picture

I am happy they supported my theory, that even complex skills like writing can be learned equally with both hands! That's what I kept saying and no one wanted to believe it. ;-)

I also agree to all the connections between handedness and brain lateralization. The big question is, what is the cause and what's the effect? Since the general assumption is, that handedness is genetic, than lateralization must also be genetic. But like I said: I think it is much more likely, these things happen when we "shape" our brain when we start using it, for example when a child learns to understand language, learns to speak, learns to use it's hands, learns to recognize faces and so on.

pattyfab's picture

Well Ralf, not exactly. Your theory seems to be that handedness arises from nurture not nature, and that's not what these scientists said at all. They fully acknowledge that most humans are born righties. While we can train our "wrong" hands to perform fine motor skill, brain imaging showed that the left brain (hence right hand) is more suited for mechanics. So from an early age, grasping a pen or a fork or whatever, we begin to use our right brains for these tasks and continue to do so. Just because it's possible to train our wrong hands does not mean it's equally easy as you say or (for most of us) necessary.

In your world either 50% of the population would be lefties (if our hands are equally trainable, why not?) or there'd be no lefties at all (wouldn't righties raise their kids to be righties?). Or we'd all be ambidextrous and there would be a LOT more switch hitters in baseball.

Did you actually listen to the piece?

ralf h.'s picture

Didn't you say you will not pursue this any further? ;-)

I know they have a very different theory. And that's fine. I just take the freedom to come up with my own conclusions when my personal experience or my common sense suggest me to have doubts in a theory, even when this theory is widely spread.
So far nothing is proven and therefore my theory is as good as any other. Time will tell. I can change my mind quickly when a theory is convincing, but I will not fall for an opinion just because it is widely spread.

Gary Long's picture

My sister, who is right-handed, always likes to tell me (a lefty) that left-handedness is a result of brain damage at birth.

When I was younger and enough hair on my head to make a part, I used to part in on the opposite side to most men (this is so long ago I can't even remember which side). This caused so much trouble with barbers and with people who thought I was an image in a mirror that I eventually swtiched to parting it the same way as everyone else. I can comb what's left equally well with left and right hands.

pattyfab's picture

This piece actually said there's a correlation between handedness and the direction your hair sworls on your head. They were going up to random men in the airport and guessing which ones were lefties based on their hair.

Ralf you are one stubborn mofo. You remind me of the people who think evolution is only a theory because their grandparents weren't monkeys.

ralf h.'s picture

I guess it's good I don't know what »mofo« means and my dictionary doesn't know either. But I do understand »stubborn« and this is insulting enough. I would be stubborn if I would close my eyes and ears and don't listen to other peoples opinions. But that's not the case. Like I said: I have read anything that is out there on this topic (and will do so in the future) and I would instantly switch sides if I just read ONE article that would make sense to me and could explain ALL circumstances of handedness in one theory. Until then, please don't call me stubborn just because I don't follow your opinion. Thanks!

aric's picture

even complex skills like writing can be learned equally with both hands!

What Dr. Sainburg actually said was even more intriguing: he said that fine motor skills (such as writing) can be easily learned with one's non-dominant hand, but that it's considerably more difficult to master gross motor skills (e.g. throwing) with one's non-dominant hand. This seems counter-intuitive, but I liked the explanation the scientists gave (which at this point is an unproven theory): genetic right-handedness predisposes individuals to undertake certain functions with the right hand and arm, while the left hand and arm perform complementary functions. For example, the right hand is predisposed to applying force, while the left hand provides stabilization. There is no genetic predisposition for specific tasks, especially ones as complex as writing (but one could easily imagine that, given the functions each hand is accustomed to, you would naturally decide to write with the right hand and stabilize the writing surface with the left hand). The evidence he cites is that people who have lost use of their dominant hand are able to master writing and other fine motor tasks with relative ease, but they have a very hard time mastering gross motor skills.

So for these scientists the question is not whether there is a genetic component, but what the effects and limits of that genetic component are. From their point of view, as I understand it, some of the effects we attribute to handedness are direct effects of genetics, while others emerge from those effects but depend on learning.

It seems to me that any complete theory of handedness needs to have both a genetic component and a learning component. The genetic component is needed to explain all the correlations between handedness and other features that are obviously genetic (such as inheritance patterns and hair whorl direction). The learning component needs to account for the fact that we can (and many do) train our non-dominant hand to accomplish complex tasks. Explanations that ignore either of these aspects will have some gaping holes.

Syndicate content Syndicate content