Patterns of hand preference for pairs of actions and the classification of handedness


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Marian Annett, School of Psychology, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 9HN, UK (e-mail:


Pairs of actions such as write × throw and throw × racquet were examined for items of the Annett hand preference questionnaire (AHPQ). Right (R) and left (L) responses were described for frequencies of RR, RL, LR, and LL pairings (write × throw etc.) in a large representative combined sample with the aim of discovering the distribution over the population as a whole. The frequencies of RL pairings varied significantly over the different item pairs but the frequencies of LR pairings were fairly constant. An important difference was found between primary actions (originally write, throw, racquet, match, toothbrush, hammer with the later addition of scissors for right-handers) and non-primary actions (needle and thread, broom, spade, dealing playing cards, and unscrewing the lid of a jar). For primary actions, there were similar numbers of right and left writers using the ‘other’ hand. For non-primary actions more right-handers used the left hand than for primary actions but more left-handers did not use the right hand. That is, different frequencies of response to primary versus non-primary actions were found for right-handers but not for left-handers. The pattern of findings was repeated for a corresponding analysis of left-handed throwing × AHPQ actions. The findings have implications for the classification of hand preferences and for analyses of the nature of hand skill.