Experiment objective

To study hand movements during conversation in men and women and to explain why they may be different.

Read more background about this activity in Doreen Kimura's bio...

You need

  • A notebook and pencil.
  • A watch.
  • A person you can watch clearly for 5 minutes.

Find someone you can watch for five minutes while they are talking. They don’t need to be talking to you. They could be in a restaurant or a bus or they could be talking to someone else with you. They should have nothing in their hands. The idea is to record their hand movements while they talk.

Make a table to record your data. The table has three columns: one for each hand, and one for both hands. It also has two rows so you can record both how many times people touch themselves and how many times they move their hands in the air. Twisting a strand of hair or brushing lint off clothes would be marked as self-touching in your table. Banging a hand on a table or waving hands in the air would be marked as free movement.

Left handRight handBoth hands
Free Movement      

After watching several different people, count up the totals of hand movements for each individual. Did you record more right hand movements or left hand movements? While people are talking they use speech centres on the left side of the brain. Which side of the brain controls the movements of the right hand? Your experiment might help answer this question. If you pool your observations with dozens of others at your school you may have enough data to calculate a left and right hand movement average for men and an average for women. Scientists like Kimura study thousands of people to get better average results. Even then, it’s important to realize that the results are only true for the set of people who were tested; for instance, college-age students, North Americans, people who lived in the 1990s, etc. In your experiment, which sex did you find uses their right hand the most while they are talking? Why do you think this is? How could you use this information and how might it affect people?