Laterality of function in apes: a meta-analysis of methods

L. F. Marchant*, W. C. McGrew

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Citations (Scopus)


Asymmetry of cerebral structure in human primates is correlated with laterality of function, which by homology, predicts that the same will hold for other hominoids (Hylobatidae, Pongidae). To what extent is the cerebral asymmetry of living apes reflected in functional laterality? To test this hypothesis, we analysed all 58 published sources of relevance for Pan (bonobo, chimpanzee) Gorilla (gorilla), Pongo (orang-utan), and Hylobates (gibbons). From coding the methods in terms of eight variables (function, context, sample, age, task, number, trials, complexity), we found that most studies focused on: hand use rather than other organs; captive rather than wild subjects; small rather than large samples of subjects; immature rather than adult subjects; spontaneous rather than induced measures; few rather than many tasks; few rather than many trials; simple rather than complex tasks. Other independent or dependent variables have been treated inconsistently or rarely, e.g., sex, performance asymmetries. Thus, the hypothesis cannot yet be tested, and such issues as population-level handedness versus individual hand preferences remain unresolved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-438
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Human Evolution
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1991


  • apes
  • hand perference
  • Hylobatidae
  • laterality
  • Pongidae


Dive into the research topics of 'Laterality of function in apes: a meta-analysis of methods'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this