Anything Left-Handed > Blog Posts > Newsletter articles > August 2010 > Left handed gestures – good or bad?

Left handed gestures – good or bad?

In laboratory tests, left- and right-handers associate positive ideas like honesty and intelligence with their dominant side of space and negative ideas with their non-dominant side. To find out whether people link ‘good' with ‘dominant' beyond the laboratory, Casasanto and co-author Kyle Jasmin examined spontaneous gestures during positive and negative speech in the final debates of the most recent US presidential elections.

The 2004 and 2008 elections involved two right-handers (Kerry, Bush) and two left-handers (Obama, McCain). Casasanto and Jasmin found that right-handed candidates made a greater proportion of right-hand gestures when expressing positive ideas and left-hand gestures when expressing negative thoughts. But the opposite was found for the left-handers, who favored their left hand more for the positive and their right hand for the negative.

Across many cultures, expressions in language link ‘good' with right (the right answer) and ‘bad' with left (two left feet). Likewise, classical treatises instruct politicians to gesture mostly with their right hand, and only to use their left hand when delivering bad news.

‘Right' and ‘left' are also linked with political views, but the candidates' spontaneous gestures did not follow party lines. Both right-handers showed the ‘good is right' pattern, and both left-handers the ‘good is left' pattern. The association of good things with one's dominant side is something Democrats and Republicans appear to agree on.

So, the hand people use to make most of their gestures with may be a clue to whether they think what they are saying is good or bad, as long as you know their dominant hand. As us lefties are in a minority, is it possible that because we mainly use our left hand for gestures about good things, the righties may actually get the impression that we think it is actually bad?

This is getting too complicated but it is an interesting thought! If you want to know more, this is a link to the original research paper.

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Posted in August 2010, Lefty info, Newsletter articles, Research

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34 comments on “Left handed gestures – good or bad?
  1. Lynda Owens says:

    I was fortunate enough to have a left handed mother who made sure no teacher tried to “convert” me to right-handedness. I also learned, probably from Mom, to turn the paper in the correct angle rather that write overhanded (I later had an art teacher who had a terrible time trying to demonstrate something to us on the chalk board with his hand in that most awkward position). While my brother is right handed on paper, he played sports left handed. He claimed he learned to pitch and bat left handed just to confuse the opposition! I have one left-handed cousin, and my first daughter and her daughter are both lefties. I am the only one though, who insists on using my mouse “left pawed.” Sure gets confusing when an instructor tells us to use the left or right finger for certain command functions. I call the buttons the “do” or “control” button and the “pick” or “option” button. Yes, I’m 67 and working on a second degree. My first was computer science and my second will be drafting, at which I’ve worked for over 20 years but want to learn more of the new solid modelling courses. I have noticed during most of my professional career that there seem to be a higher proportion of lefties than in other career fields, both the drafters and the engineers.

  2. Pat says:

    Well, it has been interesting to read of the common struggles of being lefthanded. My mother talked about trying to break me of being lefthanded as per my teacher’s request…she would put the pen in my right hand and I would put back in my left…she finally said enough, you will be my lefthanded child…my four siblings were all right handers. They other negative thing about being lefthanded came around first grade…the neighborhood kids are playing baseball and when it came my turn at bat…I naturally went to the left side and I heard from the kids “look how he standing…he is on the wrong side and he looks weird”…the ball came and i smacked that ball over the fence…and then they all said ‘wow he is good”! And sports became a good avenue for my lefthandedness…almost an advantage if you will…I’ve oftened wondered what my self concept would’ve been if i had struck out instead.

  3. veron says:

    hey guys am 23years now….mmhhhh! am the only lefty at home…! but like most of u i also stuggled with my teacher in my grade one school…mmmhh he used to beat me up until when my mother intervened and he left me alone. the other experience was when i joined college and had to under go paramilitary training….i had trouble with handling the gun but finnally managed to get through… and at the end of the course i was among the best candidates of the course…i used to be mocked by friends but in collage they had provisions for left handed people from seats to other labarotory tools and life used to be smooth as we were the minority therefore we always had things to use in excess…and today at work customers are amused when they see me serve them…but they have all looked at me with adimiration and i hve got good coments from them…so guys u have to be proud coz we are a unique design of God love u all . veron uganda….

  4. Rita says:

    When friends seem surprised when I use my left hand, I remind them that left-handed people are the only ones in their right mind.

  5. Rita says:

    When people give me “the business” about being left handed, I just remind them that leftries are the only people in their right mind.

  6. Wyrdeish says:

    The whole issue of left handed or ambidextrous is a medical fact of how the brain controls which side you use. So some people, like myself, are totally left handed and others switch between the two and use a bit of both. I naturally find I start looking at circular objects, such as clocks,in an anti-clockwise rotation. I wear a left handed watch and use left handed tools in my workshop. My lathe is arranged to rotate backwards and the chuck is on my right and not my left as with a conventional turning device. I lead with my left foot or hand in all actions.
    I do however do one thing right handed which is eating food. I would argue that in fact holding the fork in your left hand is in fact left handed on the basis that the eye/hand co-ordination required to get the food from the plate to your mouth is best undertaken by using your dominant hand. I therefore consider that all right handers are using the utensils the wrong way round.
    With regards to handshaking we need to look back to a time when a handshake rendered a right hander defenceless as they would be using their sword hand. This reinforced the belief that leftys were “sinister” (a heraldic term) and untrustworthy. In fact, in the days of the Borges in Italy they would hire left handed assassins to carry out vendettas.

  7. Bill says:

    I often say, I’ve been a leftist since birth. The word latin word “sinister,” means “Left.”

  8. Sue says:

    I am the only lefty in my family – my parents left the UK in 1947 to settle in South Africa. At my first school my (elderly) teacher used to hit my left hand with a ruler to try and make me use my right hand. I then started writing upside down in my books. Eventually my friend told my mother that my teacher hit me, and my mother went to school and saw that the treatment was stopped. Later, at a large government school, I was told as a left-hander that I could hit the ball against the wall as I wasn’t good enought to play with the others. Needless to say, I had little interest in sport- how things have changed now! I play tennis left handed but hockey or golf right handed. My teacher also selected my sewing to be exhibited, until she saw me using my left hand and ripped it out and told me to redo it righthanded. I refused and that ended my sewing. My mother taught me to knit right handed and I find left handed knitters awfully clumsy. My only daughter is right handed but strangely enough two of her girl cousins are left handed while both parents are right. People often do not notice that I am left handed as I am quite ambidextrous, but I am very proudly a lefty and hoping that one day I may have a left grandchild. I don’t know if it’s true, but I read somewhere that in the Southern hemisphere there are many more left handers. In our office with 15 staff members, we have 5 lefties which I think is certainly high! I would love to be able to import and market left hand products due to the large number of lefties who struggle with pens etc., but there is no money in third world countries to “waste” on left hand implements. I still have some of the articles I bought from the anything Left Handed Shop in London in 1975!

    • Janice says:

      Dear Sue,
      I have two nephews out of three that happen to be left-handed due to my father being left-handed. i meet a lot of left handed people and think that it is terrible that people used to try to “change” children’s handedness because of some stupid misguided superstitions. I am mostly right handed but use my left hand more now because of my job and my nephews and find that it has increased my memory and helped my brain a little. It is supposed to help your brain by using your non-dominant hand every so often for tasks like brushing your teeth or scrubbing the floor. It puts me more in my right brain, like you. Be proud of being a lefty, just like the president.

      • Sue says:

        Hold fast! My husband and I are right-handed, whilst two of my three sons are left handed. My mother has FOUR left-handed grandchildren and two righties. My brother is left-handed, and I suspect that my father may well have been if left to his own devices. I also teach and try and make sure that you leave enough room for everybodys’ arms when they write!
        I think left-handedness is becoming more accepted, hence a rise in the incidence of left-handedness.
        I would say left-handers have a more gentle nature, but no evidence to support this, except my sons!

        • Jeeson says:

          -Yeah, they swrceed up my left handed brother’s cursive so bad he had to become an architect. So he could print.Me? Using computers for 30 years absolutely totalled my ability to communicate with a pen.

  9. Nitin Gurav says:

    I am Left hander, but was forced to become a righty” when I attended school. Of four children, I am the only lefty.” Both my sisters and Brother are right handed. My friends thought I was so lucky because I play crichet with left hand bold a boling by left hand and it is realy deficult to them to get out ot to face my boling. My wife is right handed; my both daughters are right handed, all the family members are right handed. Today, I am most educated person in my family and use my left hand commonly without hegitation and proudly.

  10. preety says:

    Hi,

    I use my left hand for everything except eating.

    Now the interesting thing is i eat from my right hand finger but i use my left hand to pick the spoon or pick the boul.

    Also i shake hand with right hand.

    I am lefty, Its heridity of my father.

    But i lm proud to be lefty.

  11. Stella says:

    I am a person!!! who happens to write with her left hand,eats right handed but cuts meat, bread ,veg with my left, I play the violin righthanded, netball left handed, hockey right handed.
    shakes hands with mt right, opens doors with my right, kicks a ball with my left foot and swims with my right side being stronger. Am
    i strange or just me?
    My grnadaughter is a leftie as are three of my cousins, my neices are also lefties, all female, what a wonderous world we live in!!
    By the way my spacial awareness is top notch, need to fit in furniture, ask for me!

  12. Anne says:

    I am wondering where I fit into all this. I write with my left hand, hold cup glass etc with my left hand, eat soup etc. However when used to play tennis that was with my right hand. and could not play with my left. I play golf right handed and throw and catch a ball right handed. If I fall I automatically put out my right hand to save myself. When I eat I use the cutlery as a right hander would. Friends often set my place to suit a leftie.
    I understand the term is cross dominance.
    Yet all my life I have thought of myself as a lefty and I am proud to be one.
    At my first school at age 5 my mother asked the teacher about my using the left hand and was assured by her (a lady approaching retirement then 1943) that children were no longer made to use the right. One year later we moved and I changed school. My new teacher was a young lady straight out of training and she punished me and the other lefties. I used to hear her approach and change the pen over to the right and change it back when she had passed by.
    Writing lessons were a nightmare for us having to use pens with nibs and an inkwell. Our hands smeared the ink so teacher knew we’d been using the left hand. Each year we waited to see if our new teacher tolerated lefties.

    I never told my parents because in those days you took the rows you got at school without question.
    I will from now on pay attention to my own and others’ gestures. Up till now I hadn’t thought about it. This is an interesting point indeed.

  13. Chris Phillips says:

    Interestingly (well interesting to me anyway) is that the Koran talks of Companions of the Left Hand. There is a quite specific tract therein comparing the “good” Companions of the Right Hand with the “evil” of the Companions of the Left Hand

  14. Cathy Price says:

    I work in a school for the deaf in the US, and I sign left-handed. The deaf don’t seem to have any difficulty with reading things signed left-handed. I was always told that the most important thing is to be consistent and not switch hands when signing.

    I wish things had been that easy in the regular school I attended as a child (I’m not deaf, by the way). There was some limited attempt to switch the lefties, but we prevailed, and I do everything left-handed (you should see my inventive way of using a right-handed can opener). I think the most difficult part of my education was taking notes at university, since they had those flip-up desks that were on the right side of the chairs… but I usually managed to get two chairs, so I could use the desk from the one on my left.

    Oh, and I fence, and once won a bout at the national level (beating the top fencer in the group I was in) because my opponent didn’t notice that I was left-handed.

  15. moja2 says:

    Thanks for sharing and thanks with those experience too.
    I’m left-handed. I’m not sure whether since I was born or because of and accident i had since i was 5. I was the only lefty in my family but i’m not sure about my grandparents.
    when i was small, i felt weird from the others but when i grow up and meet friends like me (i mean lefties) i felt we were unique.
    I always confuse. when right-handed say right, i respond to left 🙂
    (so i think i’m naturally left)
    My friends always said that lefties are creative, they can draw nicely.. yes, i can but not so nice… 🙂

  16. Robert S. Reser says:

    I am eighty-one years old and back in those days when in grade school, my First Grade teacher tried to change me to be right handed, and she mostly did accomplish it.

    My First Grade teacher slapped my face, made me sit on a chair, face the blackboard in front of the room. I can still see that little chair and the blackboard in my mind. Her hand left her a print on my face and when my father found out about her doing that, he went to the school and protested. I was too young and scared to really know what that outcome was.

    It scared me so much I suppose, that I became a right hander, except for the fact the teacher wasn’t at our kitchen table to witness me eating with my left hand and that is mainly the only thing I do with my left hand, although I do find myself doing odds and ends with my left hand.

    I guess I am a little stubborn, as today I practice writing with my left hand and have not forgiven that First Grade teacher for what she had done, I have resented her practice of changing little children to be right handed instead of left handed. I was going to school in the “Spring Street Elementary School” in Piqua, Ohio at the time. No need to mention her name, as I am fairly sure she has passed away by this time.

    My sister and my son are both left handed but not my parents.

  17. Beckie says:

    I have had a lot of people look at me funny when I use my left hand to gesture. I am a very animated person, and I use my hands frequently. I work in the customer service industry and as a freelance designer/ artist, and some people comment on my being left handed as a stigma and others find it “cute”. It’s so irritating to me to try to police myself and my gestures that I have decided that I am who I am and whomever doesn’t like that that’s the way God made me so be it. I have had elderly people treat me like I’m Lucifer because I’m left handed, and I feel that it is not my job to make them feel comfortable. Perhaps if we lefties decided right hand gestures were offensive, the right handed people who frown upon left gestures would see how asinine it really is.

  18. David Irthum says:

    Bascially speaking I love being Left Handed. On my mother`s side of the family it is just me and my greatuncle that was left handed. When I was going to school in the 1950`s I only had one teacher that had some misconceived ideas that as a Left Handed person in “owed the devil a days work”.I had to clean the class, straighten the desks,wash the chalk board before I was dissmissed from class each day. They had no Left Handed desk in the class so it was difficult to write correctly. As I grew up I always though myself as unique and when I was old enough to vote. I would kid with my friends and say though I am Left Handed I use my “right” mind to vote the candidates of my choice. My dominate hand is of course,and when I wave at people I will use my left hand to wave at those I know until my new job had people from different cultures and religions. One of my co-workers called to the side and explain that certain religions are taking offense that I wave with my Left Hand. So now not to cause unintended conflicts at work I keep my Left Hand in my pocket so I use my right hand to wave at my friends and co-workers.

  19. Susan Mackie says:

    Hi my youngest son is left handed from my hubby’s side of the family. His granny, Dad, 3 sisters and 6 of the 13 grandchildren are left handed. Yes as said above I noticed my son trying to shake someones hand with his left hand and they were trying to teach him to use his right. He has struggled at school with being left handed. He uses his left hand for eating, writing but his right foot for football, tennis etc. Yes lots of folk do seem to have a problem with someone being left handed, really can’t see why it should be a problem.

  20. Robert says:

    I think if I were in conversation with some one I would hope that they would be taking note of the conversation rather than looking at my hand gestures.

    I am a lefty, use the mouse with the left hand, write with the left hand, (which has its problems at work and I need to write at the same time!) have my knife and fork the ‘wrong way round’ etc but at 7 years old was forced to learn to write with the right hand as I broke my arm and had it in plaster for 12 weeks.

    • Eileen says:

      My father was born left handed, but was forced to become a “righty” when he attended school. Of three children, I am the only “lefty.” Both my sisters are right handed. By the fourth grade, I decided during summer vacation that I would change my handedness and began practicing writing with my right hand. By the fifth grade, I injured my right arm for the second time–this time breaking it, having surgery, and being in a cast for close to two months. My friends thought I was so lucky because I would not have to do school/home work. They didn’t realize I was a “lefty.” During rehab after the cast was removed, I had to turn door knobs, use scissors, crochet, and do other tasks with my right hand to gain strength and mobility. My husband is right handed; my only child is left handed as is her husband, and her two children are right handed. Today, I write with my left hand, but do many tasks with my right hand.

  21. Cathy says:

    I attended a body language class, and in so many words, she said that when people use there left hand…it means they’re lying…

    I stood up and asked…”But, What if you’re left-handed”? Everyone in the roon laughed, but, I never got a straight answer!!!!

  22. Diana says:

    Samantha had said “Would make sense on how we use our dominate hand for almost everything”, but even though I am left-handed and use my left hand for writing, it is not really my dominant hand. I do dishes, wash my body, open doors, vacuum,etc… with my right hand. I am able to use both hands to write backward and forward simultaneously and a few other writing tricks. I would say I may be a little ambidextrous, but I cannot write very well free handedly with my right hand. Even though most people wear their watches on the opposite side they write with, I wear mine on my left hand. I don’t know exactly what that classifies as…

    • Cathy says:

      I don’t mean this in a bad way, but, you’re not a true lefty…I’m retardedly left handed…I live in a right handed word, but, I only use my right hand when it absolutely requires so…

      My point is, if you’re a lefty, YOU ARE A LEFTY…and I’m so very proud to be one!!!

      • Dawn says:

        Retardedly Lefty!?!?!? Wow, nice terminology. A lefty is a lefty even if they use their right hand for some things. Are people actually becoming left hand elitists???

      • Noor says:

        Since the ltltie guy first picked up a crayon he’s been a lefty. All of his teachers have been fine with it. In fact, one told me that now they do not place a crayon in a particular hand for a child to color, but set the crayon in front of the kid and let them pick it up with the hand of their choice. His handwriting is actually a bit better than his older brother’s, but that’s not saying much. He has a hell of a time with scissors, though, even the ones that are supposed to be either-handed. It’s hard for me to help him with writing since I’m a righty, but I’ve found through trial and error if I stand behind him and do hand-over-hand with my left hand we can make legible letters. It’s really opened my eyes to how much of a pain it is to be a lefty in a righty world.

  23. elaine says:

    This is very interesting, but what about lefties that are ambidextrous?
    Which hand would be called positive or negative?

  24. Samantha says:

    Would make sense on how we use our dominate hand for almost everything. I have been out of work for 1 12yrs now, and have not noticed a negative affect on how being a southpaw is negative or not. But I don’t see how, people are reading too much into that one, I think. Take the negative with a grain of salt, and argue that we have had more of a struggle in a right handed society, and tell them the inventors, musicians, and what have you that have broken the barriers, and we are not part if satans army, as religions will like to think.

  25. Elizabeth Woodvine says:

    I wonder if you’re right, Laura. I’ve had many interviews and meetings where I’ve naturally presented my left hand to shake which caused confusion. The ongoing use of left handed gestures may have created some distance between me and the other party leading to unsuccessful outcomes. It’s definately something to think about, but who should change, us lefties or those right handers??

  26. huntress says:

    It’s so amazing.I didn’t realize this before.But it’s really ture or not ?I don’t know,but it’s very interesting ,and wait to see more information.Thank you!

  27. Laura Sedlock says:

    I have been looking for work for several months now, and I have wondered if the left handed gestures have created a negative affect in the eyes of the interviwer. Not that they even realize this may be the source of their discontent but I’m thinking being left handed does cause an undefined negative feeling.

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  1. Bill Gates vs Park Geun-hye Body Language Analysis | Leonard AB says:

    […] particularly when facing different culture. One article about left handed politicians can be found here.) However other gestures clearly shows sign of superiority. The cause behind that can be many […]

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