Prevalence and heritability of handedness in a Hong Kong Chinese twin and singleton sample

Mo Zheng, Catherine McBride, Connie Suk-Han Ho, Jonathan Ka-Chun Chan, Kwong Wai Choy, Silvia Paracchini

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Left-handedness prevalence has been consistently reported at around 10% with heritability estimates at around 25%. Higher left-handedness prevalence has been reported in males and in twins. Lower prevalence has been reported in Asia, but it remains unclear whether this is due to biological or cultural factors. Most studies are based on samples with European ethnicities and using the preferred hand for writing as key assessment. Here, we investigated handedness in a sample of Chinese school children in Hong Kong, including 426 singletons and 205 pairs of twins, using both the Edinburgh Handedness Inventory and Pegboard Task.

Based on a binary definition of writing hand, we found a higher prevalence of left-handedness (8%) than what was previously reported in Asian datasets. We found no evidence of increased left-handedness in twins, but our results were in line with previous findings showing that males have a higher tendency to be left-handed than females. Heritability was similar for both hand preference (21%) and laterality indexes (22%). However, these two handedness measures present only a moderate correlation (.42) and appear to be underpinned by different genetic factors.

In summary, we report new reference data for an ethnic group usually underrepresented in the literature. Our heritability analysis supports the idea that different measures will capture different components of handedness and, as a consequence, datasets assessed with heterogeneous criteria are not easily combined or compared.
Original languageEnglish
Article number37
Number of pages31
JournalBMC Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2020


  • Handedness
  • Edinburgh handedness inventory
  • Pegboard
  • Chinese children
  • Twins


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