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Cultural influences on the development of lateral preferences: a comparison between French and Tunisian children

We compared the development of laterality in two cultures that differ in pressure against left-handedness. Tunisian children, who are discouraged by their parents from using their left hand for all food-related activities, were compared to French children, who are allowed to use either the left or right hand. The subjects were 5, 7, and 9 years of age. To check the development of laterality, we tested hand preference (for writing and for performing 14 other manual activities), right-left performance difference, eye preference, and foot preference. The results showed that the frequency of left-handedness and left-eyedness was lower among Tunisian than among French children; this was particularly clear at age 5. Group difference almost disappeared in primary school children. Footedness did not differ between the two groups. Tunisian right-hand writers, although they probably included some children who might not have been right-handed without the cultural pressure, were not less consistent than French right-hand writers on the 14-item scale; they even showed a greater performance difference in favour of the right hand than the French on the pegboard task. These results may indicate that cultural pressure influences handedness at an early age, perhaps by leading towards right-handedness in children whose genetic background might otherwise have induced a chance-determined pattern of handedness.



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