Right-handed people sit to the right of the movie screen to optimise neural processing of the film

Japanese researcher Matia Okubo gave 200 students a grid showing seats available in a theater with the central seats shown as occupied with the screen at the top of the grid. In the experiment all the students were told the film had positive reviews, but half where also told that the story was sad and depressing and to imagine that they’d rather avoid seeing it. The students who only heard the recommendation, the right-handers choose a seat to the right of the screen 74% of the time, whereas the left-handers and mixed-handers didn’t show a bias for one side or the other.

Although our bodies appear largely symmetrical on the outside, the way our brains are organised and wired is rather more lop-sided. This is obvious to us in relation to handedness, whereby the brain is better at controlling one hand than the other. The idea that, for many of us, the left-hemisphere is dominant for language is also widely known. However, functional asymmetry between the brain hemispheres also affects our behaviour in more subtle ways that are still being explored. The latest example of this comes from Japan where Matia Okubo has shown that right-handers have a preference for sitting to the right of the cinema screen, but only when they are motivated to watch the film. The finding is consistent with the idea that in right-handers, the right-hemisphere is dominant for processing visual and emotional input. By sitting to the right of the screen, the film is predominantly processed by the right-hemisphere and the suggestion is that, without necessarily realising it, right-handers are choosing to sit in an optimal position for their brain to digest the movie.

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