Right-handers and Americans favor turning to the right

Angelique A. Scharine, Michael K. McBeath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


We tested a finding by E. S. Robinson (1933) that people have a bias to turn right upon entering a building. We hypothesized that this bias is attributable to learning derived from traffic rules that specify driving on the right side of the road and that it also could be related to handedness. We tested participants in both the United States and England in a simple "T-maze" task in order to compare their directional preference. Handedness was the best predictor of participants' directional preference. However, U.S. participants also were statistically more likely to turn right than were English participants. The preference to turn right was not found to be significantly related to eye dominance or reading direction of the primary written language of the participant, although in the case of reading direction, the sample size of right-to-left readers was too small to be conclusive. The findings support that walking direction preference is an additive function of both learned driving patterns and genetic handedness. These findings have practical implications for the design of public spaces such as schools, businesses, and urban centers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)248-256
Number of pages9
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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