Differences between left- and right-handers in approach/avoidance motivation: influence of consistency of handedness measures

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Hand preference is often viewed as a troublesome variable in psychological research, with left-handers routinely excluded from studies. Contrary to this, a body of evidence has shown hand preference to be a useful variable when examining human behavior. A recent review argues that the most effective way of using handedness as a variable, is a comparison between individuals who use their dominant hand for virtually all manual activities (consistent handers) versus those who use their other hand for at least one activity (inconsistent handers). The authors contend that researchers should only focus on degree of handedness rather than direction of preference (left versus right). However, we argue that the field suffers from a number of methodological and empirical issues. These include a lack of consensus in choice of cut-off point to divide consistent and inconsistent categories and importantly a paucity of data from left-handers. Consequentially, researchers predominantly compare inconsistent versus consistent right-handers, largely linked to memory, cognition and language. Other research on response style and personality measures shows robust direction of handedness effects. The present study examines both strength and direction of handedness on self-reported behavioral inhibition system (BIS) and behavioral activation system (BAS) scores, using evidence from a large (N = 689) dataset including more than 200 left-handers. There were degree of handedness effects on BIS and BAS-Fun Seeking, but effects are largely driven by differences between consistent left-handers and other groups. Choice of cut-off point substantively influenced results, and suggests that unless a suitable sample of left-handers is included, researchers clarify that their degree of handedness effects are applicable only to right-handers. We concur that strength of hand preference is an important variable but caution that differences related to consistency may not be identical in right and left-handers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number134
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Early online date20 Feb 2014
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2014


  • Left-handed
  • Inhibition
  • Handedness strength
  • Handedness direction
  • EHI
  • Consistency


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