View Full Version : Do we have a natural tendency to turn to the right or left?

02-28-2006, 01:07 PM
I seem to remember reading that right-handed humans have a natural
preference for turning right (hence walking on the right could be
regarded as "ergonomic"). Does anyone know of a reference on this? In
olden times traffic was on the left (it still is in the UK and
Australia). There are two theories as to why that was. The first is that
keeping to the left allowed most people (most right-handed people ay any
rate) to wield their swords when they needed to.

The other theory is that most beasts of burden (oxen, horses, camels et
cetera) prefer to turn left. An overseas friend once told me that
Pakistan tried to change the side of the road when the British left the
sub-continent but the camels refused to change to the other side of the
road so they had to revert back to the British system.

Some tendencies to turn seem to be hard-wired. I received these
instructions the other day in a social email;
"1. While sitting at your desk, lift your right foot off the floor and
clockwise circles.

2. Now, while doing this, draw the number "6" in the air with your right
hand (or three sixes if you are feeling devilish). Your foot will change
direction. Keep trying to see if you can control your foot, but you will
find that cannot. And there's nothing you can do about it! "

I found the outcome of this little exercise somewhat weird but possibly
of interest to some of us (to physiologists and biomechanics experts
perhaps). Does anyone know exactly why it happens? Is it to do with
divided attention or brain mapping?

Has anyone ever written or found any serious journal articles about
these strange aspects of the motor control of muscles or how they affect
the choice and design of machinery controls?


David McFarlane
Ergonomist, WorkCover Authority
CBD South Office, Sydney
New South Wales, Australia

Any recommendation concerning the use or representation of a particular
brand of product in this document or any mention of them whatsoever
(whether this appears in the text, illustrations, photographs or in any
other form) is not to be taken to imply that WorkCover NSW approves or
endorses the product or the brand.

************************************************** ************************************************** ************************************

This message, including any attached files, is intended solely for the addressee named and may contain confidential
information. If you are not the intended recipient, please delete it and notify the sender. Any views expressed in this
message are those of the individual sender and are not necessarily the views of WorkCover NSW.

************************************************** ************************************************** ************************************