, Volume 89, Issue 1–3, pp 281–296 | Cite as

Developmental origins of variation in human hand preference

  • Ronald A. Yeo
  • Steven W. Gangestad


Though right-handedness is a prominant characteristic within all human societies, a substantial and stable proportion of individuals are left-handed. Any comprehensive approach to the origin of variation in handedness must account for substantial evidence that left-handedness is associated with reduced fitness, neurodevelopmental disorders, and reduced neuroanatomical asymmetry. In this paper we investigate the hypothesis that developmental instability in early fetal development underlies variation in handedness. In two studies we note an increased incidence of minor physical anomalies (MPAs) and fluctuating asymmetries in both left-handers and extreme right-handers. Moreover, extreme right-handers were more apt to have left-handed parents than moderate right-handers. These data suggest that deviation from moderate right-handedness reflect imprecise expression of a near-universal design due to developmental instability. Preliminary attempts to elucidate the mechanisms underlying developmental instability suggest that both polygenic homozygosity and particular HLA alleles may be important factors. These observations are discussed with respect to current genetic theories of handedness and human evolution.


Prominant Characteristic Human Society Substantial Evidence Comprehensive Approach Fetal Development 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald A. Yeo
    • 1
  • Steven W. Gangestad
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA

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