Effects of handedness and viewpoint on the imitation of origami-making.

Uomini, N., & Lawson, R.

The evolutionary origins of the human bias for 85% right-handedness are obscure. The Apprenticeship Complexity Theory states that the increasing difficulty of acquiring stone tool-making and other manual skills in the Pleistocene favoured learners whose hand preference matched that of their teachers. Furthermore, learning from a viewing position opposite, rather than beside, the demonstrator might be harder because it requires more mental transformation. We varied handedness and viewpoint in a bimanual learning task. Thirty-two participants reproduced folding asymmetric origami figures as demonstrated by a videotaped teacher in four conditions (left-handed teacher opposite the learner, left-handed beside, right-handed opposite, or right-handed beside). Learning performance was measured by time to complete each figure, number of video pauses and rewinds, and similarity of copies to the target shape. There was no effect of handedness or viewpoint on imitation learning. However, participants preferred to produce figures with the same asymmetry as demonstrated, indicating they imitate the teacher's hand preference. We speculate that learning by imitation involves internalising motor representations and that, to facilitate learning by imitation, many motor actions can be flexibly executed using the demonstrated hand configuration. We conclude that matching hand preferences evolved due to socially learning moderately complex bimanual skills.

Symmetry, (2017), 9, 182. DOI: 10.3390/sym9090182.