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Hand Signals

Take note the next time you are holding hands with someone: Is your hand on top or in front with your palm facing back? In a recent study researchers observed heterosexual couples, adult/child pairs, and older/younger child pairs holding hands in public. Replicating and extending previous research on hand-holding, men in the couple pairs, adults in the adult/child pairs, and older children in the child pairs were more likely to have their hand in front with their palm facing back indicating social dominance, or alternatively, protection. This study shows that something as simple as hand position can signal one’s social role. What role are you signaling?

Pettijohn, T. F., Ahmed, S. F., Dunlap, A. V., & Dickey, L. N. (2013). Who’s got the upper hand? Hand holding behaviors among romantic couples and families. Current Psychology: A Journal for Diverse Perspectives on Diverse Psychological Issues, doi:10.1007/s12144-013-9175-4

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Reader Comments (2)

In my own hand holding situation with my husband, my palm faces back, but it doesn't signal social dominance or protectiveness. It's probably due to my short arms or my husband's lack of flexibility in his entire body. Why do we think this is due to social dominance or protectiveness? Because this fits in with our per-conceived notions and stereotypes about dominance and hierarchy?

August 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJean

I find this to be true most of the time, but I just had to laugh at the part about child/adult pairs. I work with kids who can be aggressive, and we're taught to make sure our hand is on bottom if we hold theirs to make sure when they pull it to their mouths, it's not our hand getting bitten!

On a more serious note, what about the old question of "whose thumb is on top"? I've heard that plays a role as well. It would be interesting to see how often the person who's hand is on top also has their thumb out, or vise versa.

August 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJordan
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