Behavior Genetics

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 217–227 | Cite as

An international study of human handedness: The data

  • Ira B. Perelle
  • Lee Ehrman


Human handedness has been the subject of systematic study since 1646, but there is no agreement among researchers as to who can be considered a left-hander, what is the etiology of left-handedness, or what the proportion of left-handedness is in the world's population. This article reports the results of a handedness survey administered to 12,000 subjects in 17 countries, the largest handedness survey attemped. The paper discusses methods for determining handedness, the probability of a genetic component for handedness, and the relationship of sex, birth order, multiple birth, and first-degree relative's handedness on subject's handedness. A hypothesis for the etiology of left-handedness is presented.

Key Words

Handedness laterality family sinistrality left-hander 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Annett, M. (1973). Handedness in families.Ann Hum. Genet. 37:93–105.Google Scholar
  2. Annett, M. (1978).A Single Gene Explanation of Right and Left Handedness and Brainedness, Lancaster, Polytechnic, Coventry, UK.Google Scholar
  3. Ashton, G. C. (1982). Handedness: An alternative hypothesis.Behav. Genet. 12:125–147.Google Scholar
  4. Babcock, L. E. (1993). The right and the sinister.Nat. Hist. 102:32–41.Google Scholar
  5. Bakan, P. (1971). Handedness and birth order.Nature 229:195.Google Scholar
  6. Bakan, P. (1978). Why left-handedness.Behav. Brain Sci. 2:279–280.Google Scholar
  7. Bakan, P., Dibb, G., and Reid, P. (1973). Handedness and birth stress.Neuropsychologia 11:363–366.Google Scholar
  8. Benson, D. F. and Geshwind, N. (1972). Cerebral dominance and its disturbances. InDyslexia and Reading Disabilities. Paine, R., Myklebust, H., and Weiss, D. (Eds.),MSS Information, New Hork, pp. 108–118.Google Scholar
  9. Bradshaw, J. L., and Nettleton, N. C. (1983).Human Cerebral Laterality, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.Google Scholar
  10. Browne, T. (1646). Pseudoxia epidemica. T. H. for Edward Dod, London.Google Scholar
  11. Carnacek, J., and Jagr, J. (1968). Laterality of the hand and foot during childhood.Ann. Med. Psychol. 1:78.Google Scholar
  12. Carter, B. F., Ginsburg, B. E., and Isaacs, S. (1982). Righthanded families: A genealogical rarity. Paper presented at the meeting of the Behavior Genetics Association, Fort Collins, CO.Google Scholar
  13. Carter-Saltzman, L., Scarr-Salapatek, S. Barker, W. B., and Katz, S. (1976). Left-handedness in twins: Incidence and patterns of performance in an adolescent sample.Behav. Genet. 6:189–203.Google Scholar
  14. Corballis, M. C., and Morgan, M. J. (1978). On the biological basis of human laterality. I. Evidence for a maturational left-right gradient.Behav. Brain Sci. 2:261–269.Google Scholar
  15. Crovitz, H. F., and Zenner, K. (1962). A group test for assessing hand-and eye-dominance.Am. J. Psychol. 75:271–276.Google Scholar
  16. Ehrman, L., and Perelle, I. (1983). Laterality.Mensa Res. J. 16:3–32.Google Scholar
  17. Geshwind, N. (1975). The apraxias: Neural mechanisms of disorders of learned movements.Am. Sci. 63(2):188–195.Google Scholar
  18. Granville, D., Ehrman, L., and Perelle, I. (1980). Laterality Survey.Mensa Bull. 239:6.Google Scholar
  19. Halpern, D. F., and Coren, S. (1988). Do right-handers live longer?Nature 333:213.Google Scholar
  20. Hardyck, C., and Petrinovich, L. F. (1977). Left-Handedness.Psychological Bulletin,84:385–404.Google Scholar
  21. Hecaen, H., and Sauguet, J. (1971). Cerebral dominance in left-handed subjects.Cortex 7:19–48.Google Scholar
  22. Hegstrom, R. A., and Kondepudi, D. K. (1990). The handedness of the universe.Sci. Am. 58:108–115.Google Scholar
  23. Hicks, R. E. (1975). Intrahemispheric response competition between vocal and unimanual performance in, normal adult human males.J. Comp. Physiol. Psychol. 89:50–60.Google Scholar
  24. Hicks, R. E. and Kinsbourne, M. (1976). Human handedness: A partial cross-fostering study.Sciences 192:908–910.Google Scholar
  25. Hicks, R. E., and Kinsbourne, M. (1981). Fathers and sons, mothers and children: A note on the sex effect on left-handedness.J. Genet. Psychol. 139:305–306.Google Scholar
  26. Kim, S.-G., Ashe, J., Hendrich, K., Ellermann, J. M., Merkle, H., Ugurbil, K., and Georgopoulos, A. P. (1993). Functional magnetic resonance imaging of motor cortex: Hemispheric asymmetry and handedness.Sciences 261:615–617.Google Scholar
  27. Levy, J., and Nagylaki, T. (1972). A model for the genetics of handedness.Genetics 72:117–128.Google Scholar
  28. Luria, A. R. (1970).Traumatic Aphasia, Mouton Press, The Hague.Google Scholar
  29. McKeever, W. F., and VanDeventer, A. D. (1977). Visual and auditory language processing asymmetries: Influences of handedness, familial sinistrality, and sex.Cortex 13:225–241.Google Scholar
  30. McManus, I. C. (1980). Handedness in twins: A critical review.Neuropsychologia 18:347–355.Google Scholar
  31. Oldfield, R. C. (1971). The assessment and analysis of handedness: The Edinburgh Inventory.Neuropsychologia 9:97–113.Google Scholar
  32. Perelle, I. B., and Ehrman, L. (1982). What is a lefthander?Experientia 38:1256–1258.Google Scholar
  33. Perelle, I. B., and Ehrman, L. (1983). The development of laterality.Behav. Sci. 28:284–310.Google Scholar
  34. Perelle, I. B., Ehrman, L., and Manowitz, W. (1981). Human handedness-the influence of learning.Percept. Motor Skills 53:967–977.Google Scholar
  35. Porac, C., Coren, S., and Searleman, A. (1986). Environmental factors in hand preference formation: Evidence from attempts to switch the preferred hand.Behav. Genet. 16:251–261.Google Scholar
  36. Provins, K. A., and Cunliffe, P. (1972). The reliability of some motor performance tests of handedness.Neuropsychologia 10:199–206.Google Scholar
  37. Ramos, R. (1968). Left-handed writing.Acad. Ther. 4:47–48.Google Scholar
  38. Rife, D. C. (1940). Handedness, with special reference to twins.Genetics 25:178–186.Google Scholar
  39. Roberts, W. W. (1949). The interpretation of some disorders of speech.J. Ment. Sci. 95:567–588.Google Scholar
  40. Satz, P., Baymur, L., and Van der Vlugt, H. (1979). Pathological left-handedness: Cross cultural tests of a model.Neuropsychologia 17:77–81.Google Scholar
  41. Springer, S. P., and Searleman, A. (1980). Left-handedness in twins: Implications for the mechanisms underlying cerebral asymmetry of function. In Herron, J. (ed.),Neuropsychology of Left-Handedness, Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  42. Stern, C. (1960).Principles of Human Genetics, Freeman, San Francisco.Google Scholar
  43. Torgerson, J. (1950). Situs inversus, asymmetry, and twinning.Am. J. Hum. Genet. 2:361–370.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ira B. Perelle
    • 1
  • Lee Ehrman
    • 2
  1. 1.Mercy CollegeDobbs Ferry
  2. 2.SUNYPurchase

Personalised recommendations