Study: Good or bad shows up in hand use

July 29, 2010 at 10:39 PM
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NIJMEGEN, Netherlands, July 29 (UPI) -- People who are right- or-left handed associate "good" things with the side of their body they most use for hand gestures, researchers say.

Although in many cultures, language expressions link "good" with right -- "taking the right path" -- and "bad" with left -- having "two left feet" -- researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics say when it comes to hand gestures, people will use their dominant hand when delivering good news, and the other for bad news, trumping language conventions by favoring their own dominant, "fluent" side.

Researchers examined video of the 2004 presidential debates featuring two right-handers - Democratic nominee John Kerry and incumbent Republican President George W. Bush -- and the 2008 debates, featuring two left-handers -- Democratic nominee Barack Obama and Republican nominee John McCain. They found both right-handers showed the "good is right" pattern when using hand gestures to emphasize debate points, while both left-handers used the "good is left" pattern.

"Overall," Daniel Casasanto of the Planck Institute says, "the data support the idea that people associate good things with the side of their body they can use most fluently -- dominant is fluent, and fluent is good."

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