Original Paper

Animal Cognition

, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 937-953

First online:

Hand preference and its flexibility according to the position of the object: a study in cercopithecines examining spontaneous behaviour and an experimental task (the Bishop QHP task)

  • Amandine ChapelainAffiliated withETHOS, Université de Rennes 1, CNRS UMR 6552 Email author 
  • , Agathe LaurenceAffiliated withETHOS, Université de Rennes 1, CNRS UMR 6552
  • , Marie VimondAffiliated withETHOS, Université de Rennes 1, CNRS UMR 6552
  • , Audrey MailleAffiliated withETHOS, Université de Rennes 1, CNRS UMR 6552
  • , Hélène MeunierAffiliated withCentre de Primatologie, Université de Strasbourg
  • , Jacqueline FagardAffiliated withLaboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, CNRS UMR 8158, Université Paris Descartes, Centre Biomédical des Saints Pères
  • , Jacques VauclairAffiliated withResearch Center in the Psychology of Cognition, Language and Emotion, Université de Provence
  • , Catherine Blois-HeulinAffiliated withETHOS, Université de Rennes 1, CNRS UMR 6552

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The extant literature on manual laterality in non-human primates is inconclusive, plagued by inconsistent or contradictory findings and by disturbing methodological issues (e.g. uncontrolled influential factors, comparability issues). The present study examined hand preference and its flexibility in 15 red-capped mangabeys (C. t. torquatus) and 13 Campbell’s monkeys (C. c. campbelli), two species that differ in their degree of arboreality. We investigated the influence of the spatial position of the object on hand preference for reaching. We considered spontaneous behaviour (reaching for food during daily feeding) and an experimental task: the QHP task. The QHP is a task that is used in humans. This is a simple reaching task that involves high spatial constraints on hand use. In our study, the subject had to reach for items that were placed on a semi-circle in front of it on five positions, including in the centre position, in the ipsilateral space and in the contralateral space. We assessed hand preference for reaching in front (baseline condition), and we examined how this preference changed when reaching in lateral positions. For reaching in front, about half of the subjects were lateralized and no group-level bias occurred, for both spontaneous and experimental conditions. When considering reaching in the lateral positions, we observed that the position of the object influenced hand use: individuals used the hand that was closest to the object. The results are discussed in relation to previous findings in humans and in non-human primates and regarding theories on handedness and flexibility of hand preference.


Handedness Manual preference Monkeys Spatial constraints on hand use Reaching