Hand preference for writing and associations with selected demographic and behavioral variables in 255,100 subjects: the BBC internet study

Brain Cogn. 2006 Nov;62(2):177-89. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2006.04.005. Epub 2006 Jun 23.


In an Internet study unrelated to handedness, 134,317 female and 120,783 male participants answered a graded question as to which hand they preferred for writing. This allowed determination of hand preference patterns across 7 ethnic groups. Sex differences in left-handedness were found in 4 ethnic groups, favoring males, while no significant sex differences were found in three of the groups. Prevalence of left-handedness in the largest of the ethnic groups (self-labelled as "White") was comparable to contemporary hand preference data for this group [Gilbert, A. N., & Wysocki, C. J. (1992). Hand preference and age in the United states. Neuropsychologia, 30, 601-608] but the prevalence of left-handedness in individuals >70 years of age was considerably higher in the present study. Individuals who indicated "either" hand for writing preference had significantly lower spatial performance (mental rotation task) and significantly higher prevalence of hyperactivity, dyslexia, asthma than individuals who had clear left or right hand preferences, in support of Crow et al. [Crow, T., Crow, L., Done, D., & Leask, S. (1998). Relative hand skill predicts academic ability: global deficits at the point of hemispheric indecision. Neuropsychologia, 36, 1275-1282]. Similarly, an association of writing hand preference and non-heterosexual orientation was clearest for individuals with "either" writing hand responses. We conclude that contradictions in the literature as to whether or not these variables are linked to handedness stem largely from different definitions of hand preference. Due to a lack of statistical power in most studies in the literature, the "either" hand writing preference group that yielded the most salient results in this study is not normally available for analysis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / ethnology
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Asthma / ethnology
  • Asthma / psychology
  • Child
  • China
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Demography*
  • Discrimination Learning
  • Dyslexia / epidemiology
  • Dyslexia / ethnology
  • Dyslexia / psychology
  • Educational Status
  • Ethnicity / psychology*
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality*
  • Handwriting*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orientation
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Problem Solving
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior
  • United Kingdom
  • United States