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The fighting hypothesis in combat:how well does the fighting hypothesis explain human left-handed minorities?

By Ton G.G. Groothuis, I.C. McManus, Sara M. Schaafsma and Reint H. Geuze


The strong population bias in hand preference in favor of right-handedness seems to be a typical human trait. An elegant evolutionary hypothesis explaining this trait is the so-called fighting hypothesis that postulates that left-handedness is under frequency-dependent selection. The fighting hypothesis assumes that left-handers, being in the minority because of health issues, are still maintained in the population since they would have a greater chance of winning in fights than right-handers due to a surprise effect. This review critically evaluates the assumptions and evidence for this hypothesis and concludes that some evidence, although consistent with the fighting hypothesis, does not directly support it and may also be interpreted differently. Other supportive data are ambiguous or open for both statistical and theoretical criticism.We conclude that, presently, evidence for the fighting hypothesis is not particularly strong, but that there is little evidence to reject it either. The hypothesis thus remains an intuitively plausible explanation for the persistent left-hand preference in the population. We suggest alternative explanations and several ways forward for obtaining more crucial data for testing this frequently cited hypothesis.

Topics: sports, handedness; aggression; evolution; lateralization
Year: 2013
DOI identifier: 10.1111/nyas.12164
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