International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 259–277 | Cite as

Simple Reaching Is Not So Simple: Association Between Hand Use and Grip Preferences in Captive Chimpanzees

  • William D. Hopkins
  • Jamie L. Russell
  • Michelle Hook
  • Stephanie Braccini
  • Steven J. Schapiro


We assessed the relationship between grip preference and hand use in chimpanzees in 2 experiments. In experiment 1, we evaluated consistency in hand use and grip preference across 4 food types. The chimpanzees showed population-level right-handedness and there are significant positive associations for both hand and grip use across food types. In experiment 2, we assessed validity of hand use in relation to grip preference in 2 colonies of chimpanzees via the same methodology. Differences in hand preferences between colonies were associated with variation in the observed grip preferences. There was no evidence of rearing effects on handedness in either colony. We discuss the overall results in the context of the evolution of handedness in relation to increasing motor demands as manifest in variation on grasping behavior.


Chimpanzee hand preference grip preference 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Boesch, C., and Bosech, H. (1993). Different hand postures for pounding nuts with natural hammers by wild chimpanzees. In Preuschoft, H., and Chivers, D. J. (eds.), Hands of primates, Springer-Verlag, New York, pp. 31–43.Google Scholar
  2. Bradshaw, J., and Rogers, L. J. (1993). The Evolution of Lateral Asymmetries, Language, Tool Use and Intellect. San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  3. Byrne, R. W., Corp, N., and Byrne, J. M. (2001). Manual dexterity in the gorilla: Bimanual and digit role differentiation in a natural task. Anim. Cognit. 4: 347–361.Google Scholar
  4. Corballis, M. C. (1992). The Lopsided Brain: Evolution of the Generative Mind, Oxford University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  5. Christel, M. I. (1994). Catarrhine primates grasping small objects: Techniques and hand preferences. In Anderson, J. R., Roeder, J. J., Thierry, B., and Herrenschmidt, N. (eds.), Current Primatology vol IV: Behavioral Neuroscience, Physiology and Reproduction, Universite Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg, pp. 37–49.Google Scholar
  6. Christel, M. I., Kitzel, S., and Niemitz, C. (1998). How Precisely do bonobos (Pan Paniscus) grasp small objects? Int. J. Primatol. 19: 165–194.Google Scholar
  7. Ehrsson, H. H., Fagergren, A., Jonsson, T., Westling, G., Johansson, R. S., and Forssbery, H. (2000). Cortical activity in precision-versus power-grip tasks: An fMRI study. J. Neurophysiol. 83: 528–536.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Ettlinger, G. (1988). Hand preference, ability, and hemispheric specialization: How far are these factors related in the monkey ? Cortex 24: 389–398.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Fagot, J., and Vauclair, J. (1991). Manual laterality in nonhuman primates: A distinction between handedness and manual specialization. Psycholo. Bull. 109: 76–89.Google Scholar
  10. Hook-Costigan, M. A., and Rogers, L. J. (1997). Hand preferences in New World primates. Int. J. Com. Psychol. 9: 173–207.Google Scholar
  11. Hopkins, W. D. (1993). Posture and reaching in chimpanzees (Pan) and orangutans (Pongo). J. Com. Psychol. 17: 162–168.Google Scholar
  12. Hopkins, W. D. (1999). On the other hand: Statistical issues in the assessment and interpretation of hand preference data in nonhuman primates. Int. J. Primatol. 20: 851–866.Google Scholar
  13. Hopkins, W. D., and Dahl, J. F. (2000). Birth order and hand preference in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): Implications for pathological models of human handedness. J. Comp. Psychol. 114: 302–306.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Hopkins, W. D., and Russell, J. L. (2004). Further evidence of a right hand advantage in motor skill by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Neuropsychologia 42: 990–996.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Hopkins, W. D., Dahl, J. F., and Pilcher, D. (2000). Birth order and left-handedness revisited: Some recent findings in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and their implications for developmental and evolutionary models of human handedness. Neuropsychologia 38: 1626–1633.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Hopkins, W. D., Bennett, A., Bales, S., Lee, J., and Ward, J. P. (1993). Behavioral laterality in captive bonobos (Pan paniscus). J. Comp. Psychol. 107: 403–410.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Hopkins, W. D., and Cantalupo, C. (in press). Does variation in sample size explain individual differences in hand preferences of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)? An empirical study and reply to Palmer (2002). Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. Google Scholar
  18. Hopkins, W. D., Cantalupo, C., Wesley, M. J., Hostetter, A., and Pilcher, D. (2002). Grip morphology and hand use in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): Evidence of left hemisphere specialization in motor skill. J. Experim. Psychol. Gen. 131: 412–423.Google Scholar
  19. Jones-Engel, L. E., and Bard, K. A. (1996). Precision grips in young chimpanzees. Am. J. Primatol. 39: 1–15.Google Scholar
  20. Lehman, R. A. W. (1993). Manual preference in prosimians, monkeys, and apes. In Ward, J. P., and Hopkins, W. D. (eds.), Primate Laterality: Current Behavioral Evidence of Primate Asymmetries, Springer-Verlag, New York, pp. 107–124.Google Scholar
  21. MacNeilage, P. F., Studdert-Kennedy, M. G., and Lindblom, B (1987). Primate handedness reconsidered. Behav. Brain Sci. 10: 247–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Marchant, L. F., and McGrew, W. C. (1991). Laterality of function in apes: A meta-analysis of methods. J. Hum. Evol. 21: 425–438.Google Scholar
  23. Marzke, M. W. (1997). Precision grips, hand morphology and tools. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 102: 91–110.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. McGrew, W. C., and Marchant, L. F. (1997). On the other hand: Current issues in and meta-analysis of the behavioral laterality of hand function in nonhuman primates. Yearbook Phys. Anthropol. 40: 201–232.Google Scholar
  25. Olson, D. A., Ellis, J. E., and Nadler, R. D. (1990). Hand preferences in captive gorillas, orangu-tans, and gibbons. Am. J. Primatol. 20: 83–94.Google Scholar
  26. Palmer, A. R. (2002). Chimpanzee right-handedness reconsidered: Evaluating the evidence with funnel plots. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 118: 191–199.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Searleman, A., Porac, C., and Coren, S. (1989). Relationship between birth order, birth stress, and lateral preferences: A critical review. Psychol. Bull. 105: 397–408.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Tonooka, R., and Matsuzawa, T. (1995). Hand preferences in captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in simple reaching for food. Int. J. Primatol. 16: 17–34.Google Scholar
  29. De Vleeschouwer, K., Van Elsacker, L., and Verheyen, R. F. (1995). Effect of posture on hand preferences during experimental food reaching in bonobos (Pan paniscus). J. Comp. Psychol. 109: 203–207.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Ward, J. P., Milliken, G. W., and Stafford, D. L. (1993). Patterns of lateralized behavior in prosimians. In Ward, J. P., and Hopkins, W. D. (eds.), Primate Laterality: Current Behavioral Evidence of Primate Asymmetries, Springer-Verlag, New York, pp. 43–76.Google Scholar
  31. Warren, J. M. (1980). Handedness and laterality in humans and other animals. Physiol. Psychol. 8: 351–359.Google Scholar
  32. Westergaard, G. C., Kuhn, H. E., and Suomi, S. J. (1998). Bipedal posture and hand preference in humans and other primates. J. Comp. Psychol. 112: 56–63.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • William D. Hopkins
    • 1
    • 2
    • 6
  • Jamie L. Russell
    • 1
  • Michelle Hook
    • 3
  • Stephanie Braccini
    • 4
  • Steven J. Schapiro
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Division of PsychobiologyYerkes National Primate Research CenterAtlanta
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyBerry CollegeMount Berry
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyTexas A&M University, College Station
  4. 4.Department of Veterinary SciencesThe University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer CenterBastrop
  5. 5.Department of PsychologySouthwestern UniversityGeorgetown
  6. 6.Division of Psychobiology, Living Links Center, Yerkes Primate Research CenterEmory UniversityAtlanta

Personalised recommendations