The relationship between hand preference, hand performance, and general cognitive ability

Michael Nicholls, Heidi L Chapman, Tobias Loetscher, Gina Grimshaw

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    50 Citations (Scopus)


    The idea that handedness indicates something about a persons cognitive ability and personality is a perennial issue. A variety of models have been put forward to explain this relationship and predict a range of outcomes from higher levels of cognitive ability in left-handers or moderate right-handers to lower levels of achievement in left- or mixed-handers. We tested these models using a sample (n = 895) drawn from the BRAINnet database ( Participants completed a general cognitive ability (GCA) scale and a test of hand preference/performance. Moderate right-handers, as indexed by their performance measures, had higher GCA scores compared with strong left- or right-handers. The performance measure also showed lower levels of GCA for left-handers compared with right-handers. The hand preference data showed little or no association with cognitive abilityperhaps because this measure clusters individuals toward the extremes of the handedness distribution. While adding support to Annetts heterozygous advantage model, which predicts a cognitive disadvantage for strong left- or right-handers, the data also confirm recent research showing a GCA disadvantage for left-handers. Although this study demonstrates that handedness is related to cognitive ability, the effects are subtle and might only be identified in large-scale studies with sensitive measures of hand performance.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)585-592
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010


    • Dextral
    • Hand
    • IQ
    • Left
    • Right
    • Sinistral


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