A cross-cultural comparison of pressures to switch left-hand writing: Brazil versus Canada

Clare Porac, William Lee Berdel Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Attempts to switch left-hand preferences towards the right side are socialisation practices found in many countries (Perelle & Ehrman, 1994). Although researchers acknowledge that pressures against left-hand use contribute to the cross-cultural fluctuations in the prevalence of left- versus right-hand preference, there has been little systematic cross-cultural study of how these pressures are applied, and who are the major agents applying the pressures to change. Our study explored specific rightward conversion practices and the results of these practices among individuals from two countries. One sample of participants was from a culture categorised as formal, Brazil, and the second sample was from Canada, a nonformal culture (Hofstede, 2001). Researchers have argued that prevalence rates of right-handedness should be higher in cultures that value conformity, called formal cultures, and lower among members of nonformal cultures where conformity pressures are lax (Medland, Perelle, De Monte, & Ehrman, 2004). The socialisation practices used to foster a change from the left to the right side are also predicted to differ in frequency and in kind in formal versus nonformal cultural settings. These cultural differences are assumed to result in differences in success rates of the conversion attempts, with formal cultures producing higher numbers of successfully converted right-handers. Our findings indicate that the formal versus nonformal cultural explanation for cross-cultural fluctuations in the prevalence of hand preference types does not account for the characteristics of the rightward conversion experiences reported by participants in the two groups. We propose that hypotheses concerning the effects of cultural differences on hand preference formation be expanded to include possible biological or genetic variance between groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-291
Number of pages19
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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