Handedness and religiosity, a two-nation study: Evidence that hemispheric functioning may influence religious beliefs

(1) Lee Ellis Mail (University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Malaysia)
(2) * Shyamal Das Mail (Elizabeth City State University, Elizabeth City, North Carolina, United States)
(3) Anthony W. Hoskin Mail (Idaho State University, United States)
*corresponding author


Prior research has reported that so-called consistent-handers are more religious than non-consistent-handers. This study analyzed data bearing on this possibility using large samples of college students from two different countries; Malaysia and the United States. When samples from both countries were separated by sex, no significant support for this prior research was found. However, when we analyzed our data with handedness dichotomized between right-handers and non-right-handers, some significant relationships were found. Among females in both countries, left- and mixed-handers expressed lower degrees of certainty about the existence of God and life-after-death. Also, right-handedness and religious service attendance were positively and significantly associated among Malaysian males. Among US males, however, belief in God was actually significantly stronger among right-handers than among left and mixed-handers. Assuming that right handedness is a rough proxy for left hemispheric dominance, our findings provide some support for the hypothesis that right hemispheric dominance is associated with orthodox religiosity at least among females.


Handedness; Religiosity; hemispheric




Article metrics

10.47679/jopp.525872023 Abstract views : 104 | PDF views : 37




Full Text



Bradshaw, J. L. & Nettleton, N. C. (1981). The nature of hemispheric specialization in man, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 4, 51-91.

Cavanagh, T.; Berbesque, J.C.; Wood, B.; Marlowe, F. (2016). Hadza handedness: Lateralized behaviors in a contemporary hunter–gatherer population. Evolution and Human Behavior, 37, 202–209.

Chen, E. Y. (2018). Handedness and religious beliefs: Testing the two possible accounts of authoritarianism and belief updating. Personality and Individual Differences, 127,101-106.

Chen, Q., Beaty, R. E., Cui, Z., Sun, J., He, H., Zhuang, K., . . . Qiu, J. (2019). Brain hemispheric involvement in visuospatial and verbal divergent thinking. Neuroimage, 202, 116065.

Christman, S. D., Henning, B. R., Geers, A. L., Propper, R. E., & Niebauer, C. L. (2008). Mixed-handed persons are more easily persuaded and are more gullible: Interhemispheric interaction and belief updating. Laterality, 13, 403-426.

Clements, A. M., Rimrodt, S. L., Abel, J. R., Blankner, J. G., Mostofsky, S. H., Pekar, J. J., . . . Cutting, L. E. (2006). Sex differences in cerebral laterality of language and visuospatial processing. Brain and Language, 98, 150-158.

Coulson, S., & Lovett, C. (2004). Handedness, hemispheric asymmetries, and joke comprehension. Cognitive Brain Research, 19, 275-288.

Davis, J. A. (1985). The logic of causal order (No. 55). Sage.

DiPrete, T. A., & Buchmann, C. (2006). Gender-specific trends in the value of education and the emerging gender gap in college completion. Demography, 43, 1-24.

Dorius, S. F., & Firebaugh, G. (2010$). Trends in global gender inequality. Social Forces, 88, 1941-1968.

Ellis, L., Palmer, C. T., Hopcroft, R. & Hoskin, A. W. (2024a). Handbook of sex differences, Volume II: Cognitive Variables. Routledge (Taylor & Francis).

Ellis, L., Palmer, C. T., Hopcroft, R. & Hoskin, A. W. (2024b). Handbook of sex differences, Volume I: Basic Biology. Routledge (Taylor & Francis).

Faurie, C., & Raymond, M. (2005). Handedness, homicide and negative frequency-dependent selection. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 272, 25-28.

Friesen, A., & Ksiazkiewicz, A. (2015). Do political attitudes and religiosity share a genetic path? Political Behavior, 37, 791-818.

Gervais, W. M., & Norenzayan, A. (2012). Analytic thinking promotes religious disbelief. Science, 336(6080), 493-496.

Hawes, Z., & Ansari, D. (2020). What explains the relationship between spatial and mathematical skills? A review of evidence from brain and behavior. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 27, 465-482.

Heeren, T., & D'Agostino, R. (1987). Robustness of the two independent samples t‐test when applied to ordinal scaled data. Statistics in medicine, 6(1), 79-90.

Heilman, K. M., Nadeau, S. E., & Beversdorf, D. O. (2003). Creative innovation: possible brain mechanisms. Neurocase, 9, 369-379.

Kim, S.G.; Ashe, J.; Georgopoulos, A.P.; Merkle, H.; Ellermann, J.M.; Menon, R.S.; Ogawa, S.; Ugurbil, K. (1993). Functional imaging of human motor cortex at high magnetic field. J. Neurophysiology, 69, 297–302.

Kinsbourne, M. (1982). Hemispheric specialization and the growth of human understanding. American Psychologist, 37, 411-420.

Knecht, S., Dräger, B., Deppe, M., Bobe, L., Lohmann, H., Flöel, A., . . . Henningsen, H. (2000). Handedness and hemispheric language dominance in healthy humans. Brain, 123, 2512-2518.

Kushner, H. I. (2013). Why are there (almost) no left-handers in China? Endeavour, 37, 71-81.

Mancini, C., & Mirabella, G. (2021). Handedness does not impact inhibitory control, but movement execution and reactive inhibition are more under a left-hemisphere control. Symmetry, 13(9), 1602, 1-20.

Medlanda, S., Duffy, D., Wright, M., Geffenc, G., Hayd, D., Levye, F., Boomsmaf, D. (2009). Genetic influences on handedness: Data from 25,732 Australian and Dutch twin families, Neuropsychologia, 47, 330-337.

Miller, A. S., & Stark, R. (2002). Gender and religiousness: Can socialization explanations be saved? American Journal of Sociology, 107, 1399-1423.

Mutha, P.K.; Haaland, K.Y.; Sainburg, R.L. (2013). Rethinking motor lateralization: Specialized but complementary mechanisms for motor control of each arm. PLoS One 2013, 8, e58582.

Niebauer, C. L., Christman, S., Reid, S., & Garvey, K. (2004). Interhemispheric interaction and beliefs on our origin: Degree of handedness predicts beliefs in creationism versus evolution. Laterality, 9, 433-447.

Paracchini, S. (2021). Recent advances in handedness genetics. Symmetry, 13 (1792), 1-11.

Paulhus, D. L., & Vazire, S. (2007). The self-report method. In R.W. Robins et al. (Eds.), Handbook of research methods in personality psychology (pp. 224-239). Guilford Press.

Powell, J. L., Kemp, G. J., & García-Finaña, M. (2012). Association between language and spatial laterality and cognitive ability: An fMRI study. Neuroimage, 59, 1818-1829.

Rausch, R. (1977). Cognitive strategies in patients with unilateral temporal lobe excisions. Neuropsychologia, 15(3), 385-395.

Sha, Z., Pepe, A., Schijven, D., Carrión-Castillo, A., Roe, J. M., Westerhausen, R., . . . Francks, C. (2021). Handedness and its genetic influences are associated with structural asymmetries of the cerebral cortex in 31,864 individuals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(47), e2113095118.

Shamay-Tsoory, S. G., Adler, N., Aharon-Peretz, J., Perry, D., & Mayseless, N. (2011). The origins of originality: the neural bases of creative thinking and originality. Neuropsychologia, 49, 178-185.

Sharma, S., & Ang, J. (2019, August 12-15). More for God-less for climate association of religiosity with stringency of climate change policies. International Conference on Applied Energy, Vasteras, Sweden.

Sommer, I. E., Aleman, A., Bouma, A., & Kahn, R. S. (2004). Do women really have more bilateral language representation than men? A meta-analysis of functional imaging studies. Brain, 127, 1845-1852.

Vance, T., Maes, H. H., & Kendler, K. S. (2010). Genetic and environmental influences on multiple dimensions of religiosity: A twin study. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 198(10), 755-761.

Waller, N. G., Kojetin, B. A., Bouchard Jr, T. J., Lykken, D. T., & Tellegen, A. (1990). Genetic and environmental influences on religious interests, attitudes, and values: A study of twins reared apart and together. Psychological science, 1(2), 138-142.

Whitehouse, H. (2002). Modes of religiosity: Towards a cognitive explanation of the sociopolitical dynamics of religion. Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, 14, 293-315.

Wiberg, A., Ng, M., Al Omran, Y., Alfaro-Almagro, F., McCarthy, P., Marchini, J., . . . Furniss, D. (2019). Handedness, language areas and neuropsychiatric diseases: insights from brain imaging and genetics. Brain, 142, 2938-2947.

Zimmer, Z., Jagger, C., Chiu, C.-T., Ofstedal, M. B., Rojo, F., & Saito, Y. (2016). Spirituality, religiosity, aging and health in global perspective: A review. SSM-Population Health, 2, 373-381.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2023 Anthony W. Hoskin

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Journal of Psychological Perspectives
Published by:
Lucky Arya Residence 2 No. 18
Jalan HOS. Cokroaminoto Kab. Pringsewu
Lampung - Indonesia, Postal code 35373

Creative Commons License
Journal of Psychological Perspectives is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.