Are left-handers really more anxious?

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Research examining anxiety and handedness is inconclusive. Davidson and Schaffer (1983) found left-handers had higher trait anxiety, while Beaton and Moseley (1991) found no state or trait differences. Such studies potentially have methodological issues, and we have argued that handedness related reactivity differences (Wright & Hardie, 2011) suggest that state anxiety needs to be measured within a context. Thus the current study investigated state and trait anxiety levels in an experimental situation. We found left-handers had significantly higher state scores, supporting the right hemisphere's role in negative affect and inhibition. It also fits with predictions based on the behavioural inhibition system's role in the revised reinforcement sensitivity theory (rRST). No trait differences were found, but there was a significant relationship between trait and state anxiety. Using ANCOVA to control for the influence of trait anxiety on state anxiety, we still found a handedness effect. When participant's trait anxiety levels were similar, left-handers showed a relatively larger state response. We conclude that in the context of an experiment, state anxiety was directly correlated with trait anxiety but that the relatively higher reactivity of left-handers may be a major influence on how they respond in a new situation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)629-642
Number of pages14
JournalLaterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition
Issue number5
Early online date18 Nov 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Handedness
  • State anxiety
  • Trait anxiety
  • Reinforcement sensitivity theory
  • rRST
  • Behavioural inhibition system
  • BIS


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