beige_alert: (SlippingMan)
[personal profile] beige_alert
I got to thinking about handedness and and thought I should see what sort of scientific tests for left/right handedness in humans have been developed. Back when I was a child and was learning to write, I don't recall being tested to see if I was left or right handed, they just went with the right-handed idea and I guess anyone who complained loudly enough about that would get reclassified as left handed. But handedness feels very subtle to me. Few tasks seem any easier one way or the other. I shoot bows and guns either way, depending on how the particular one I'm shooting at the moment was designed, and it just doesn't feel like it makes any difference at all. I'm quite a bit better at writing right-handed, but the bulk of my practice has been that way, and I didn't start doing any writing left handed until I was somewhere in my late teens. It's not at all obvious it wouldn't be as good or better left-handed if I'd been doing it that way since childhood.

I was imagining some sort of series of tasks to be performed by left and by right hand, scored for accuracy and timed for speed, with some sort of statistical analysis to determine if you are more left or right handed. The sort of thing that in my mind I imagine sensible people running children through before starting to teach them to write, so you could start them with the better hand. Because how would you know unless you do some sort of careful test?

Anyway, I went looking and found the Edinburgh Handedness Inventory, which is just an amazingly pathetic inventory. Try this slightly expanded version. For one thing, it starts off with things obviously influenced by the do-this-right-handed world around you, like the overwhelming majority of scissors not really working left-handed. A handedness inventory that asks if you've gotten so fed up with trying to use right-handed scissors that you went and obtained special left-handed scissors isn't going to tell us anything we didn't already know. We don't need a test for the really obvious cases.

The other thing is, wow, those are some "handed" activities? Using a spoon? Opening a box? People actually do those consistently left or right handed? Brush or comb? Surely you tend to use the left hand for the left side of the head, right hand for the right side? Unlocking a door? Wouldn't that just depend on which side of the door the lock is on, and from with side you approach the door, and which hand you happen to have the key in when you get there? These seem to me like an entirely different order of tasks from handwriting, seemingly far below the threshold of caring which hand you use.

Eye dominance tests, those are also a mystery to me, setting me up to see a perfectly matched symmetrical pair of images and implying vaguely that I should be seeing something different. As far as I have seen, eye dominance tests are scored on a 100:0 or 0:100 or else "no dominant eye" basis, apparently no one has been interested in taking the time to develope a test carefully crafted enough to score you as a 48:52 or whatever.

I'm also left thinking there is some sort of metaphor for gender in this, that there are exactly two and everyone is obviously one or the other. (I'm starting to wonder if maybe there are some aspects to gender that are as mysterious to me as handedness. I suspect there may be.)

Date: 2013-10-22 02:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I use my right hand to brush my hair on either side of my head, and I wouldn't find it natural to use my left hand to unlock a door. I'm also much more likely to use a spoon with my right hand (although, oddly, I think I'd be more comfortable with a fork in either hand.) Having said that, I have no clue how much of that is habit. I think you're right that once you've been trained in a particular set of characteristics it is very very hard to tell for certain what is natural and what is learned.

Date: 2013-10-22 04:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I am highly handed. I fly airplanes and ride bikes left-handed. I write and brush my teeth with my right hand. I am catastrophic trying to do any of those with the opposite hand.

[ profile] manintheboat says the official optometrist test is to look at something far away, put your hands up in a small circle, so you encircle the image, then very slowly bring it to your face. She says that's a pretty reliable test insofar as people very rarely end up coming up with varied answers.

Date: 2013-10-22 10:21 am (UTC)
aunty_marion: iGranny (iGranny)
From: [personal profile] aunty_marion
My problem with eye-dominance tests is that doing what you suggest gives me a choice of images to focus on. Do I look at a single image of my hands, which gives me a double image of the distant object, or vice versa? I'm actually right-eyed when it comes to archery, but without glasses the left eye has a slightly longer focus (6" as opposed to 3"!).

Date: 2013-10-23 12:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
She calls it the telescope test: you look through your hands at the distant object, as if you're looking through an old-fashioned sailor's 'scope.

I've never tried left-handed archery, for lack of a suitable bow. That'd be interesting. I'm rubbish shooting a rifle left-handed. (Though not much better right-handed, to be fair.)

Date: 2013-10-23 01:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Any of the look-through-a-hole tests would seem to have to be set up *very* carefully or the setup will just bias which of the two identical images you find first.

The parallax of two eyes and objects at different distances produces a pair of images and apparently (I guess) some people's brains tend to process-out one of them (like not perceiving the blind spots, I guess), but some of us very clearly always perceive both and if one is more dominant than the other it's a very, very subtle thing. Something you could only really determine with many repetitions of a very carefully set up test to pick out some tiny bias toward left or right. In practice apparently no one has worked up such a careful test, and if it's not just obvious without needing a statistical analysis then it's just 'no dominant eye.'

Date: 2013-10-23 02:30 am (UTC)
aunty_marion: (archer!Me)
From: [personal profile] aunty_marion
Left-handed bows are common enough that I sometimes have to look twice to see if a solo archer is shooting right- or left-handed - ditto when looking idly at a solitary bow. If you get several archers together, of course, it's usually fairly obvious which one(s) is/are left-handed ... Unless they all are, of course! (In which case you get an interesting double-take effect of the "what's wrong with this picture?" type!)

Date: 2013-10-23 04:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I've seen plenty of recurves that have dual rests and a symmetric handgrip. I've never had an opportunity to play with one. Next time I'm at the wood bow shop down the street...

Date: 2013-10-23 09:44 am (UTC)
aunty_marion: (archer!Me)
From: [personal profile] aunty_marion
I'm not sure whether those are any good, actually - I've been told that if you're left-eye dominant, you should have a proper left-handed bow.

However, these days I shoot a longbow, and many of those are two-sided - I remember one shoot I was at where a left-handed friend's bow broke, so he borrowed one from another right-handed friend, and they shot on alternate details with the same bow! (My longbow is actually a 'right-handed' one - it only has an arrow plate on the left side of the grip.)

Date: 2013-10-24 01:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Mine are all righties as well, although the one I learned on didn't even have a rest: it was a yew, not even recurve, and the rest was your hand, so it was the ultimate in ambi bows.

Date: 2013-10-22 08:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I've always thought of myself as ambidextrous. When we learned to write, I used the crayon alternatively in both hands. My teacher asked if I felt more comfortable with it left or right and I remember I said "I dunno". She then said if it was all the same to me, it would be easier to hold a fountain pen in my right because I wouldn't have my hand smear the ink that way. That's how I got right handed for writing.

Lately, two doctors have told me I am probably a lefty trained to be right handed. I shrugged, because, well, I don't really feel there is anything I'd rather do with my left, as many true lefties do. They complain about scissors and can openers being the wrong way. I don't care. When building an IKEA closet, I use the screwdriver with my right hand for the corners I can best reach with my right, then switch to left for the others, and I don't mind either.

The test you linked to gives me 45, which is Middle but leaning towards right. Seems to be exactly how I feel about it. :)

There is only one thing I do almost exclusively with my left and that's holding and driving the computer mouse. I switched mouse sides during college when I had to type lots of numbers with the number block on my right and used the mouse to click on the next field. I've kept it there since, and I'm also doing photo editing and drawing with the lefty mouse.

Date: 2013-10-22 10:19 am (UTC)
aunty_marion: Official Aunty Marion (Default)
From: [personal profile] aunty_marion
That handedness test gives me 60, which I suppose makes me mainly right-handed. Well, yes, but there are a lot of things not on that list that I do with either hand or with the left hand only! And a few not on there that I can only do with the right hand. And probably several that I do with whichever hand is nearest...

I believe I'm left-footed, definitely right-eyed (certainly so for archery), but I'm an awkward sod when it comes to handbags, as they seem to be designed to be carried on the right side, and I want them on the left, so I always find the zips are the wrong way round to be convenient. I have odd shoulders, I know - I could never carry my satchel on my left shoulder, as it slipped off but found it awkward on the right. Yes, I wear handbags across my body mostly...

Date: 2013-10-22 12:35 pm (UTC)
madfilkentist: (Mokka)
From: [personal profile] madfilkentist
You may be closer to ambidextrous than most people. I always use my right hand to unlock doors and to comb my hair, and I don't recall anyone making me do that. Of course, this may be reinforced by the fact that I keep my keys and comb in my right pocket, but I wouldn't do that so consistently if I didn't have a preference for using them right-handed. On the other ... hand ... I can play keyboard equally, or almost equally, well with either hand. My lessons included an emphasis on left-hand skills, so I was pushed to ambidexterity, but the push worked. When I'm typing, both hands participate equally.

There may be something specific about writing which is connected to handedness, and maybe that leads us to use the writing hand more for other skills even though we could learn with either.

Date: 2013-10-23 06:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm clearly right-handed, my left hand is useless for most things. The only thing that I really know I do with my left hand is to apply mascara to my left eye. But only mascara, for eyeliner I use my right hand.

I thought for a while that I use my left hand to unscrew bottles, but that's not so. I do hold the cap with my left hand - and then turn the bottle with my right hand. Stupid, but that's how I do it.


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