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Power In Our Hands

Your hands hold more power than you probably give them credit for, with even the side you favour affecting the choices you make in life. According to recent research by Dr Daniel Casasanto of Chicago University, presented to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, we often subconsciously opt for a vast array of things in front of our favourite hand. “Righties would on average choose the person or product on the right; lefties, on average, the person or product on the left,” he claims. “We found in a large simulated election, that compared to the lefties, righties will choose the candidate they see on the right of the ballot paper about 15% more.”


Research by Scotland’s Abertay University even found that lefties and righties react differently to emotional and intellectual situations. “Left-handers seem to be slightly more cautious when they approach stuff, especially if it’s new,” Dr Lynn Wright tells the Guardian. “On things like problem-solving, you find that left-handers tale longer to start tasks than right-handers… What we’ve found with previous research is that the right side of the brain [dominant in left-handed people] is more associated with avoidance behaviour and being more careful, whereas the left side of the brain has more established connections with impulsivity.”


Of course, we move our hands to communicate too. Not only does the action help us think, but it also serves as a way aiding the listener to more easily understand our point. In fact, the more we gesticulate, the more likeable we become. Studies have also shown that hand-movement even has links to intelligence. “The act of gesturing itself also seems to accelerate learning,” writes Annie Murphy Paul for Business Insider, “bringing nascent knowledge into consciousness and aiding the understanding of new concepts. A 2007… at the University of Iowa, reported that third-graders who were asked to gesture while learning algebra were nearly three times more likely to remember what they’d learned than classmates who did not gesture.”


Political leaders and public speakers perfect their palm positioning to portray their position of power or subliminally plead for the public’s trust. “When leaders don’t use gestures correctly,” writes Carol Kinsey Goman in her article, ‘Great Leaders Talk With Their Hands’, for Forbes, “it suggests they don’t recognise the crucial issues, they have no emotional investment in the issues or they don’t realise the impact of their non-verbal behaviour on the audience…. If an audience does not trust the presenter, or at least think that the speaker believes what he is saying, then it will be almost impossible for that speaker to get his message across.” Tricks include angled open palms to express candour, palms down to signal certainty and arms held horizontally at waist height to show composure.


Hands and Health

  • Our eyes may be the window into our souls, but on a more practical level, our hands also serve as guides as to the state of our inner health.
  • Red or blotchy palms signal liver problems. An inflamed liver leads to an excess of hormones and dilated vessels in our hands and feet.
  • Swollen fingers are often due to too much salt, dehydration or PMS. However, in more severe cases could be a sign of thyroid problems of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Fatty knuckles caused by a covering of hard, yellow bumps may signal a potentially lethal high cholesterol condition.
  • Discoloured nails can be caused by a fungal condition or herald the onset of diabetes.
  • Stress or an overactive thyroid may be to blame for sweaty palms.
  • Trembling palms can be the result of anxiety, excess caffeine or a reaction to certain drugs. Shaking hands can also be a warning sign of Parkinson’s.
  • Press your fingertips down on a hard surface and your fingernails should turn white then straight back to pink when released. If they stay pale it may be a sign of iron-deficiency.



  • Your genial gestures may easily be misinterpreted by other cultures when travelling, so here’s a quick guide to keeping you and your hands safe.
  • Beware of an itchy chin in Belgium, France and Tunisia. Flicking your hand beneath your face signals ‘bugger-off!’
  • The universal sign for ‘OK’ is not so universal and not so okay in Greece, Spain or Brazil as it symbolises a certain orifice. It’s best avoided in the Middle East too where it signifies an evil eye.
  • Rock on! Not in Spain, Italy or Greece where your rock ‘n’ roll greeting will be interpreted as signalling the promiscuity of your wife.
  • The thumb’s-up is not seen as so great or a job well done in Greece or the Middle East, where it’s more akin to the middle finger.
  • Beckon someone in the Philippines with an upturned hand they’ll think you’re comparing them to a dog.
  • Crossing the fingers may be sign of luck to us westerners, but in Vietnam it’s a representation of the female genitalia and is especially offensive when pointed at someone, obviously.


Words: Jamie Christian Desplaces