Generally, people prefer the side with their dominant hand — right-handed people generally think of their right side as “good,” while the opposite is usually true for left-handed people. But a new study from the Netherland’s Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics suggests that our preference for left or right may be more flexible than originally thought.
The study, lead by Daniel Casasanto, took 13 right-handed people, and gave them a simple scenario. They were told that a character loves zebras and hates pandas, and then asked them to select where that character would place those animals. Each patient could choose a box either to the left or the right of the character. Out of the 13, eight had lost the use of their dominant right hand due to a stroke, and of those, seven placed the beloved zebra to the left of the character.
The team also took 55 right-handed students and asked them to set up dominos while wearing a cumbersome, heavy glove on their dominant hand. Afterward, they were given the same zebra and panda scenario. The team found that wearing the glove made students five times more likely to place the zebra on the side which wasn’t in the glove.
Beyond the issues of human preference, the study underlines the amazing adaptability of the human brain. As Casasanto was quoted in the New Scientist, “If wearing a glove for a few minutes can reverse our decisions about what’s good and bad, maybe the mind is more malleable than we thought.”
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