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Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 1998 Jan;6(3):185-92.

Right-handers and left-handers have different representations of their own hand.

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  • 1Istituto di Fisiologia Umana, Universit√† di Parma, via Gramsci 14, I-43100 Parma, Italy. gentiluc@piruniv.cce.unipr.it


The visual control of our own hand when dealing with an object and the observation of interactions between other people's hand and objects can be involved in the construction of internal representations of our own hand, as well as in hand recognition processes. Therefore, a different effect on handedness recognition is expected when subjects are presented with hands holding objects with either a congruent or an incongruent type of grip. Such an experiment was carried out on right-handed and left-handed subjects. We expected that the different degree of lateralisation in motor activities observed in the two populations [J. Herron, Neuropsychology of left-handedness, Academic Press, New York, 1980.] could account for the construction of different internal hand representations. As previously found [L.M. Parsons, Imaged spatial transformations of one's hands and feet, Cogn. Psychol., 19 (1987) 178-241.], in order to identify handedness, subjects mentally rotated their own hand until it matched with the presented one. This process was confirmatory, being preceded by an implicit visual analysis of the target hand. Presentation of hands holding objects with congruent or incongruent types of grip influenced handedness recognition at different stages in right-handed and left-handed subjects. That is, the mental rotation stage was affected in right-handed subjects, whereas the initial phase of implicit hand analysis was affected in left-handed subjects. We suggest that in handedness recognition, left-handers relied more on a pictorial hand representation, whereas right-handers relied more on a pragmatic hand representation, probably derived from experience in the control of their own movements. The use of different hand representations may be due to differential activation of temporal and premotor areas.

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