More ambidextrous individuals tend to be less religious than individuals who are strongly either right- or left-handed, according to research published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
“I’m interested in the factors that lead people to religious beliefs and to believe in supernatural phenomena. While there have been many studies on this question from multiple perspectives, such as evolutionary, social, and psychological, the possibility that physiological traits might also affect belief in God was absent in the literature,” said Eugene Chan of Monash University, the author of the study.
Research published in 2004 found that strongly handed individuals were more likely to believe in biblical creationism rather than biological evolution. The original study proposed that strongly handed individuals were less likely to update their beliefs in light of evidence. But Chan wondered if other factors could explain the association.
The new study of 743 U.S. adults confirmed that handedness was correlated to religiosity. The strongly handed participants were more likely to agree with statement such as “There is a personal God” while disagreeing with statement such as “Religion makes people do stupid things.”
Chan also found evidence that authoritarianism mediated the relationship between handedness and religiosity. In other words, strongly handed individuals tended to score higher on a measure of right-wing authoritarianism, which in turn was associated with stronger religious belief.
“Many factors, including physiological traits, can influence one’s likelihood of believing in God,” he told PsyPost. “But the mediating mechanism for this is a personality trait, namely authoritarianism. So, both biological and personality traits ‘work together’ along with social and other psychological factors to shape one’s beliefs in God.”
“I only compared authoritarianism with belief updating as two possible explanations why handedness might influence belief in God,” Chan added. “This certainly doesn’t mean that authoritarianism, which I found to be the strongest explanation statistically, is the only way — just one of the ways.”
“Belief in God or religious beliefs generally has multiple explanations, so my research only comes from one perspective. Belief in God is also likely the most fundamental beliefs that humans hold, so it’s a complex question, and likely, a single answer will never be found!”
The study was titled: “Handedness and religious beliefs: Testing the two possible accounts of authoritarianism and belief updating“.