On the evolution of handedness: evidence for feeding biases

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Flindall, Jason W.
Gonzalez, Claudia L. R.
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Public Library of Science
Many theories have been put forward to explain the origins of right-handedness in humans. Here we present evidence that this preference may stem in part from a right hand advantage in grasping for feeding. Thirteen participants were asked to reach-to-grasp food items of 3 different sizes: SMALL (CheeriosH), MEDIUM (Froot LoopsH), and LARGE (Oatmeal SquaresH). Participants used both their right- and left-hands in separate blocks (50 trials each, starting order counterbalanced) to grasp the items. After each grasp, participants either a) ate the food item, or b) placed it inside a bib worn beneath his/her chin (25 trials each, blocked design, counterbalanced). The conditions were designed such that the outward and inward movement trajectories were similar, differing only in the final step of placing it in the mouth or bib. Participants wore Plato liquid crystal goggles that blocked vision between trials. All trials were conducted in closed-loop with 5000 ms of vision. Hand kinematics were recorded by an Optotrak Certus, which tracked the position of three infrared diodes attached separately to the index finger, thumb, and wrist. We found a task (EAT/PLACE) by hand (LEFT/RIGHT) interaction on maximum grip aperture (MGA; the maximum distance between the index finger and thumb achieved during grasp pre-shaping). MGAs were smaller during right-handed movements, but only when grasping with intent to eat. Follow-up tests show that the RIGHT-HAND/EAT MGA was significantly smaller than all other hand/task conditions. Because smaller grip apertures are typically associated with greater precision, our results demonstrate a right-hand advantage for the grasp-to-eat movement. From an evolutionary perspective, early humans may have preferred the hand that could grasp food with more precision, thereby maximizing the likelihood of retrieval, consumption, and consequently, survival.
Sherpa Romeo green journal: open access
Right-handedness , Right-handed movements , Right-hand dominance , Maximum grip aperture , MGA , Grasp-to-eat , Grasp-to-place , Kinematics
Flindall, J. W., & Gonzalez, C. L. R. (2013). On the evolution of handedness: evidence for feeding biases. PLoS ONE, 8(11): e78967. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078967