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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
BUCKLER, C. L. (1999). The Effects of Environment and Handedness on Writing Performance. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 2. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved September 26, 2023 .

The Effects of Environment and Handedness on Writing Performance
Missouri Western State University DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
Everyday left handed people struggle in a right handed world. There are many different factors in the environment that may pose problems for left handed people. The problem is that the majority of people are right handed and products are often made for right handed individuals without any thought being put into whether or not it will work for a left handed person. The experiment investigated the effects of several different variables concerning handedness and performance. Some future research suggest that there is a biological determinant of handedness, other research believes that it is learned and shaped by the environment. This study investigated the effect that a desk made for the opposite handedness has on a person. A total of 89 subjects participated in this study. The participants came from mostly general psychology classes along with a few miscellaneous psychology classes. The subjects were placed in a room with either all left handed desks or all right handed desks. In each session all subjects were asked to copy a paragraph in a given amount of time and then each filled out a short questionnaire. The results demonstrated that students were not highly effected by sitting at a desk made for the opposite handedness. Although the results did not prove to be highly significant it is important to remember to take into consideration how a left handed person may feel. If they feel discriminated against, it would not be hard or time consuming to make adjustments for them, that way at least they get the chance that right handed people get everyday. This is something that is especially important to consider early in the educational setting.

Every single day left handed people struggle to succeed in a right handed world. There are many things in the environment that may influence the performance of an individual. For instance left handed students are faced with many obstacles in school. Some of these problems include using scissors, using a right handed desk, using a ruler, even notebooks are made for the right handed person. Left handed students also have a hard time when it comes to sitting at a table with right handed students because they constantly bump elbows with them. Even writing poses a problem for left handed individuals because they always move their hand across what they have just written and it smudges the ink all over the paper, and gets smeared on their hands as well (Kelly, 1998). Another important factor to consider is a computer mouse, they are always made for right handed people. Of course, you can buy a special left handed one, but it is inconvenient if you use a computer anywhere else. It is almost as if left handed people are discriminated against.There has been much research done on handedness and related factors. Some research suggests that there is a biological determinant of handedness, while other suggests that it is simply a learned behavior. Provins(1997) believes the latter to be true, and states that there is no evidence to disprove it. He suggests that handedness is a product of an individuals motor learning capacity, and the extent of the individuals exposure to environmental bias, or the usage and experience of each hand. There is clearly a need for further investigation of the interactive effects of related factors such as environmental influence, innate ability, opportunity for motor development. In a previous study that compared the performance of extremities, age , gender and handedness surprising results were found (Kauranen and Vanharanta, 1996). While looking at speed of movement and error, men outperformed women in speed while women outperformed men in number of errors. Performance activities such as finger tapping, and foot tapping. Speed, accuracy, and coordination were all taken into account. This may suggest that women would be more consistent and reliable when it came to an activity such as note taking, or it could simply imply that women would have nicer and neater handwriting. Another study looked at hand performance tests with modified time limits. While looking at performance on pegboard, tracing, dotting shapes, and tapping they changed the time limits for different groups. In one case a ceiling effect was found, it is stated that it is because of age. Hand dominance was the most important contributing factor in the scores. The findings of this research may suggest that practice is most likely a determining factor in performance. This suggest that right handed people score better on using their right hand on a given performance task than would left handed people using their right hand and vice-versa. This effect is seen even with the practice effect taken into consideration (Jancke, 1996).In conclusion, left handed people face many problems. Making adjustments for them would be very easy and not very time consuming. If teachers would just take the time to help left handed students early on in education it would help them throughout life. Handwriting technique is often overlooked when it comes to left handed individuals. They need to be taught how to properly write this includes the correct way to hold a pencil, keeping the wrist flat against the writing surface which prevents hooking of the wrist. Using pencils with harder lead, and ink pens that have quick drying ink so that the writing will not smudge. I believe that the biggest thing to consider here is that the student should have a desk that is made for a left handed person, there are also suggestions to have left handed students sit at lower desks (Kelly, 1998).The purpose of this study is to see if the type of desk (left or right handed) effects students performance in a classroom setting, depending on the handedness. There are several levels of the dependent variable; which include comfort, distraction, fatigue, quantity and possibly quality of notes. I hope to find that a student using a desk which is made for the opposite handedness effects them negatively. I chose this project because I am left handed and too often left handed students have no choice but to use a right handed desk. There are also many other things that pose difficulties for left handed people and it happens in all different environments.


A total of 89 subjects that participated in the experiment. The subjects for the experiment came from general psychology classes at Missouri Western State College. All students signed their names and time that they would be participating in the experiment prior to the actual time of the experiment. As an incentive all subjects received course credit for their participation in the experiment. No identifying information such as age or gender was recorded for the experiment.

The materials used for this experiment include a piece of paper with a couple of paragraphs on it for students to copy and a piece of paper for them to copy onto, which was provided for them. A short paper and pencil questionnaire was given to each subject after the experiment was finished. Left and right handed desks were also used for the experiment. To ensure exact timing for the experiment a stopwatch was used as well.

In carrying out the experiment, I randomly filled a room with either all left handed or all right handed desks and had random groups of students come in. The students had signed their names on a sign up sheet prior to the experiment. After all the participants were sitting in a desk, I told them that I was looking at their writing speed. Each subject was given a piece of paper with two paragraphs on it, and a blank sheet of lined paper. I handed out the sheets of paper face down so that no one had an advantage over anyone else by looking at the paragraph. Next, I told them that they had only four minutes to copy as much of the paragraph or paragraphs as possible. The paragraphs were too long for anyone to actually finish but not so long that they hardly got through it. After they finished that, I handed out a short questionnaire of only five questions. The questionnaire included questions concerning how comfortable they were during the experiment, if they were distracted during the experiment, to what extent they felt fatigued, which hand they write with, and how they felt about the study. I also recorded how many words each participant wrote in the four minutes, and whether or not they noticed if they were in the wrong desk for their handedness. I compared the results of students who sat at the opposite desk of their handedness to students who sat at the correct desk for their handedness. While there were only ten desks, the number of subjects participating in the experiment at one time varied from one to ten. Participants of the experiment were at minimal risk, and were debriefed shortly after the project was finished.

The results of the experiment demonstrate that people having to sit at a desk that is made for the opposite handedness as them are slightly effected. In this study the results indicated that 38% of the participants who were sitting in a desk made for the opposite handedness noticed that they were sitting at the wrong desk. Several different variables were recorded for this experiment. These variables include the level of distraction, comfort, and fatigue. The questionnaire also asked if they were left or right handed, and an open-ended question concerning what changes they would make in the experiment to make it easier. Four separate t-tests were calculated to determine the effect that each variable had on the participants. A significant difference was found for distraction (t(88)=1.98,p=.05), participants sitting at the wrong desk were no more distracted than students sitting at the right desk. There was also no significant difference found for comfort (t(88)=.17,p=.86), students sitting at the wrong desk for their handedness were no more uncomfortable than students at the correct desk. While there was no significant difference found for distraction and comfort there was a tendency for participants to write faster if they were at a desk made for their correct handedness (t(88)=1.69,p=.095). Right handed people sitting at right handed desks were more likely to write faster than right handed people at left handed desks, the same goes for left handed people at left handed desks and left handed people at right handed desks. The results also indicated that there was a slight effect on fatigue from having to sit at the opposite desk (t(88)=.6,p=.55), students at the wrong desk were more likely to feel fatigued than students at the right desk.

It was found that right handed participants sitting in a right handed desk wrote faster than did right handed people in left handed desks. The same was found for left handed subjects, if they were in a left handed desk they were more likely to write faster than if in a right handed desk. No significant difference was found for distraction and comfort, participants did not report being more distracted if in a desk that was made for the opposite handedness. Results indicated that subjects sitting at the wrong desk were no more uncomfortable than subjects at the right desk. As for fatigue, participants were more likely to feel fatigue if they were at the wrong desk. The results that were found were not exactly consistent with the hypothesis. I hoped to find more significant results in this study. While students at the right desk had a tendency to write faster than those in the wrong desk, the overall performance level on the task was not significant. I also expected to see an interaction effect with right handed people at left handed desks scoring lower than left handed people at right handed desks. This was expected because left handed students are used to having to use right handed desks and it would not effect them as much. The problem with this is that there were not enough left handed participants in the experiment. As I hoped to find that students were negatively effected by sitting at a desk made for the opposite handedness the results were not significant.The results of this study relate to the literature on handedness and performance. Some previous research that has been done includes tests on speed, accuracy, and coordination. The results on speed in this study compare with the results found in previous experimental research. While gender was not taken into account, previous research suggests that men outperform women in speed of writing while women outperform men in accuracy. If results had been recorded on writing quality women may have had nicer and neater handwriting than men, but men probably would have more written words. Many different factors related to handedness and performance have been investigated, in this study only a few have been discussed.Some limitations to this study might include not getting enough left handed subjects, the size of the desktops of the left handed desks, and the time limit of the writing exercise. The desktops of the left handed desks was very large, about double the width of the right handed desks, which may have made a big difference in the comfort level of the participants. It would have been better to get a larger sample size to increase the number of left handed subjects. The time limit of the writing exercise could have been increased which may have effected the extent of fatigue of the participants. In changing the structure of the desk and the time limit of the writing exercise the results of writing speed and the report of noticing the wrong desk may have been statistically significant.The findings of this study may be generalized to different situations especially in the educational setting. There are many things that may effect left handed people such as scissors, a computer mouse, notebooks, and even rulers. If in everyday life right handed people faced difficulties such as left handed people they might feel a little discriminated against. The important thing to remember is that left handed people are the minority and while they are faced with many obstacles it would not take much to make small changes to help them out.In future research it would be very interesting to see if right handed people are largely effected by using a left handed mouse. I think that the results would prove to be very significant. In doing that research it may help right handed people understand the disadvantages that left handed people deal with in everyday life.

Jaencke, L. (1996). The hand performance test with a modified time limit instruction enables the examination of hand performance asymmetries in adults. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 82, 735-738.Kuranen, K., Vanharanta, H. (1996). Influences of aging, gender, and handedness on motor performance of upper and lower extremities. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 82, 515-525. Kelly, E.B. (1998). Handy suggestions for helping left-handed students. Mailbox Teacher, 27, 44.Provins, K.A. (1997). Handedness and speech: A critical reappraisal of the role of genetic and environmental factors in the cerebral lateralization of function. Psychological Review,104, 554-571.

Submitted 5/3/99 1:43:40 PM
Last Edited 5/3/99 2:37:17 PM
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