Sunday, January 22, 2012

estrangement from whole self...

Participants wore a bulky ski glove on one hand, with the other glove dangling from the same wrist, while arranging dominoes on a table. Right-handers who wore the glove on their right hand became functionally left-handed, causing them to make good-bad judgements like natural left-handers. (Credit: Image courtesy of Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics)
Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.-- Carl Jung

Those who watch American politics have probably noticed that these may be among the most politically radicalized and contentious times in American history. The days leading up to the Civil War were worse, but parties described as being left and right seem to be firmly entrenched in their positions, and it may be hard to find middle ground as one party or the other is pushed to its extremes. You might find it interesting as I do that politics are framed as spatial positions left or right, rather than as particular ideas.

In boxing you put on gloves. In street fighting, you might take them off, but can wearing or not wearing a single glove effect the way we think, and how we process our ideas? In last night's reading, I found that it can, and I think you, too will find this article and research fascinating: A glove on your hand can change your mind.
Unconsciously, right-handers associate good with the right side of space and bad with the left. But this association can be rapidly changed, according to a study published online March 9, 2011 in Psychological Science, by MPI researcher Daniel Casasanto and Evangelia Chrysikou (University of Pennsylvania). Even a few minutes of using the left hand more fluently than the right can reverse right-handers' judgments of good and bad, making them think that the left is the 'right side' of space. Conceptions of good and bad are rooted in people's bodily experiences, and can change when patterns of bodily experience change.
Researcher Daniel Casasanto, had noticed that Right handers would choose products or make decisions based on what they saw presented from the rigth side, but that if their dominant hand was partially impaired by wearing a single ski glove, their choices changed.
To test this theory, Casasanto and colleagues studied how natural right-handers think about good and bad when their right hand is handicapped, either due to brain injury or something much less extreme: wearing a ski glove. Stroke patients completed a task that reveals implicit associations between space and goodness in healthy participants. Patients who had lost the use of their left hand showed the usual right-is-good pattern. But patients who lost the use of their right hand following damage to the left-hemisphere of the brain associated good with left, like natural left-handers.

The same pattern was found in healthy university students who performed a motor fluency task while wearing a bulky glove on either their left hand (which preserved their right-handedness) or on their right hand, which turned them temporarily into left-handers. After about 12 minutes of lopsided motor experience, the right-gloved participants' judgements on an unrelated task showed a good-is-left bias, like natural left-handers.
Those who are involved in crafts, therefore, using both the left and right hands may have some advantages in dealing with complex decision making in that they may be less impulsive and more deliberative rather than automatically resorting to stock decisions based on left or right handedness. It may be that the notion that so many early educators shared, that the use of crafts for all in education would help build students who were whole, balanced and "all-sided," would have led us away from the political dissension that dominates the news, and has crippled the response to our economic crisis.

I have been reading Jung's Red Book, which is profusely illustrated and written in careful calligraphy and  I had been led to this research by an interest in how the hands express the unconscious mind. Evidently they do, and they can. Carl Jung had said, "Hands, whose shape and function are  intimately connected with the psyche, might provide revealing, and therefor interpretable, expressions of psychological peculiarity, that is, of human character." He was referring to the study of psycho-chirology, an advanced form of palm-reading. He may have been a bit off in his speculation. But it seems that an examination of the hands and how they function in relation to human thought will be revealing.

I will be interviewed on EdTalk Radio this afternoon at 4:10 PM Central, or 10:10 PM GMT

Make, fix and create...


  1. This is very interesting and something I've never really thought about but it makes sense. I've often thought of craft time in early evidence that we are starting children in school too early and they are just trying to find something to fill the time. Maybe there is value to it after all. After reading this I would like to see a study of the thought process of people who are forced to be abidextrous, e.g. pianists, to the norm who are hand-dominant.

  2. Tony, keyboarding is ambidextrous, at least it is on a Querty keyboard.

    Most skilled craftsmen will have both a dominant and less than dominant hand, but both hands get work and have a place in the scheme of things. For instance, try to write with your right hand without securing the paper with your left.

    Crafts were traditionally thought to be an engagement in objects, and senses, and it was believed that children would best learn from their own senses. This was fundamental in progressive education, early kindergarten, Montessori and Waldorf education. And ignored in recent schooling due pressures from no child left behind legislation.