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Are only infants held more often on the left? If so, why? Testing the attention-emotion hypothesis with an infant, a vase, and two chimeric tests, one “emotional,” one not

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Most adults, especially women, hold infants and dolls but not books or packages on the left side. One reason may be that attention is more often leftward in response to infants, unlike emotionally neutral objects like books and packages. Women's stronger bias may reflect greater responsiveness to infants. Previously, we tested the attention hypothesis by comparing women's side-of-hold of a doll, book, and package with direction-of-attention on the Chimeric Faces Test (CFT) [Harris, L. J., Cárdenas, R. A., Spradlin, Jr., M. P., & Almerigi, J. B. (2010). Why are infants held on the left? A test of the attention hypothesis with a doll, a book, and a bag. Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, 15(5), 548–571. doi:10.1080/13576500903064018]. Only the doll was held more often to the left, and only for the doll were side-of-hold and CFT scores related, with left-holders showing a stronger left-attention bias than right-holders. In the current study, we tested men and women with a doll and the CFT along with a vase as a neutral object and a “non-emotional” chimeric test. Again, only the doll was held more often to the left, but now, although both chimeric tests showed left-attention biases, scores were unrelated to side-of-hold. Nor were there sex differences. The results support left-hold selectivity but not the attention hypothesis, with or without the element of emotion. They also raise questions about the contribution of sex-of-holder. We conclude with suggestions for addressing these issues.
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Keywords: Side-of-hold; attention; emotion; infants; sex-of-holder

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA 2: Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA 3: Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA

Publication date: January 2, 2019

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