Handedness Shapes Children’s Abstract Concepts
Article first published online: 14 SEP 2011
Copyright © 2011 Cognitive Science Society, Inc.
Volume 36, Issue 2, pages 359–372, March 2012
How to Cite
Casasanto, D. and Henetz, T. (2012), Handedness Shapes Children’s Abstract Concepts. Cognitive Science, 36: 359–372. doi: 10.1111/j.1551-6709.2011.01199.x
- Issue published online: 5 MAR 2012
- Article first published online: 14 SEP 2011
- Received 27 June 2010; received in revised form 20 March 2011; accepted 30 March 2011
- Cognitive development;
- Embodied cognition;
- Emotional valence;
Can children’s handedness influence how they represent abstract concepts like kindness and intelligence? Here we show that from an early age, right-handers associate rightward space more strongly with positive ideas and leftward space with negative ideas, but the opposite is true for left-handers. In one experiment, children indicated where on a diagram a preferred toy and a dispreferred toy should go. Right-handers tended to assign the preferred toy to a box on the right and the dispreferred toy to a box on the left. Left-handers showed the opposite pattern. In a second experiment, children judged which of two cartoon animals looked smarter (or dumber) or nicer (or meaner). Right-handers attributed more positive qualities to animals on the right, but left-handers to animals on the left. These contrasting associations between space and valence cannot be explained by exposure to language or cultural conventions, which consistently link right with good. Rather, right- and left-handers implicitly associated positive valence more strongly with the side of space on which they can act more fluently with their dominant hands. Results support the body-specificity hypothesis (Casasanto, 2009), showing that children with different kinds of bodies think differently in corresponding ways.