The Evolution Of Right And Left Handedness

Mar 02, 2006

A study from the April issue of Current Anthropology explores the evolution of handedness, one of few firm behavioral boundaries separating humans from other animals. "The predominant right-handedness of humans has been noted since at least the time of the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle," write Amanda Blackburn (University of Manitoba) and Christopher Knüsel (University of Bradford).

"Modern research has shown that hand preference occurs across human cultures and, through observations of ancient art, in ancient peoples."

As researchers find new cultural behaviors among chimpanzees and other primates, language is the only other characteristic accepted to be unique to humans, and both language and handedness appear to relate to the separation of functions between the two halves of the human brain, also known as lateralization.

The researchers compared two test groups - a modern sample of Canadians and a sample of medieval English villagers - to determine the effect repeated movement had on human skeletons separated by over a thousand years. They found that the majority of active individuals display a high degree of asymmetry.

"We studied two groups, one a modern group of Canadians, for whom we could document hand preference and physical activity histories, as well as the breadth of the part of the humerus that makes up the elbow joint," explain the authors. "We then applied the same measurement to a group of medieval English villagers known to us only through their skeletons. This allowed us to demonstrate the usefulness of this trait to determine changes in hand preference in populations separated in time by over a thousand years."

Sponsored by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Current Anthropology is a highly respected transnational journal devoted to research on humankind, encompassing the full range of anthropological scholarship on human cultures and on the human and other primate species. Communicating across the subfields, the journal features papers in a wide variety of areas, including social, cultural, and physical anthropology as well as ethnology and ethnohistory, archaeology and prehistory, folklore, and linguistics.

Copyright 2006 by Space Daily, Distributed United Press International

Explore further: Local education politics 'far from dead'

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New approach to form non-equilibrium structures

Jul 24, 2014

Although most natural and synthetic processes prefer to settle into equilibrium—a state of unchanging balance without potential or energy—it is within the realm of non-equilibrium conditions where new possibilities lie. ...

Study shows role of media in sharing life events

Jul 24, 2014

To share is human. And the means to share personal news—good and bad—have exploded over the last decade, particularly social media and texting. But until now, all research about what is known as "social sharing," or the ...

Getting a grip on robotic grasp

Jul 18, 2014

Twisting a screwdriver, removing a bottle cap, and peeling a banana are just a few simple tasks that are tricky to pull off single-handedly. Now a new wrist-mounted robot can provide a helping hand—or rather, ...

Recommended for you

Local education politics 'far from dead'

11 hours ago

Teach for America, known for recruiting teachers, is also setting its sights on capturing school board seats across the nation. Surprisingly, however, political candidates from the program aren't just pushing ...

First grade reading suffers in segregated schools

11 hours ago

A groundbreaking study from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) has found that African-American students in first grade experience smaller gains in reading when they attend segregated schools—but the ...

Violent aftermath for the warriors at Alken Enge

12 hours ago

Denmark attracted international attention in 2012 when archaeological excavations revealed the bones of an entire army, whose warriors had been thrown into the bogs near the Alken Enge wetlands in East Jutland ...

Why aren't consumers buying remanufactured products?

14 hours ago

Firms looking to increase market share of remanufactured consumer products will have to overcome a big barrier to do so, according to a recent study from the Penn State Smeal College of Business. Findings from faculty members ...

Expecting to teach enhances learning, recall

14 hours ago

People learn better and recall more when given the impression that they will soon have to teach newly acquired material to someone else, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

User comments : 0