Behavior Genetics

, Volume 25, Issue 5, pp 433-445

First online:

A gene-culture model of human handedness

  • Kevin N. LalandAffiliated withDepartment of Animal Behaviour, University of Cambridge
  • , Jochen KummAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Stanford University
  • , John D. Van HornAffiliated withNational Institutes of Health
  • , Marcus W. FeldmanAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Stanford University

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A model of handedness incorporating both genetic and cultural processes is proposed, based on an evolutionary analysis, and maximum-likelihood estimates of its parameters are generated. This model has the characteristics that (i) no genetic variation underlies variation in handedness, and (ii) variation in handedness among humans is the results of a combination of cultural and developmental factors, but (iii) a genetic influence remains since handedness is a facultative trait. The model fits the data from 17 studies of handedness in families and 14 studies of handedness in monozygotic and dizygotic twins. This model has the additional advantages that it can explain why monozygotic and dizygotic twins and siblings have similar concordance rates, and no hypothetical selection regimes are required to explain the persistence of left handedness.

Key Words

Handedness asymmetry genetic cultural transmission mathematical model evolution