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Saturday, 7 September, 2002, 23:25 GMT 00:25 UK
Why women cradle babies on the left
Psychologists have come up with an explanation for why most mothers instinctively cradle their babies in their left arms.

Research shows that if a woman is given a baby or a doll to hold she is twice as likely to hold it on her left, rather than her right hand side.


For mothers with typical brain organisation left cradling is the optimum position for interpreting the infant state

Brenda Todd
Brenda Todd and Victoria Bourne, psychologists at the University of Sussex, believe the reason is that the right side of the female brain is specialised for interpreting faces and emotions.

They tested 32 right handed volunteers, of whom 12 were male, on their cradling bias.

The volunteers also took a test to determine which side of the brain they used for face processing.

The researchers found that females who cradled on the left showed signs that the right side of their brain controlled the way they processed information about faces.

No such relationship was found for males.

Good view

This brain organisation in females means that information in the left of their visual field, such as an infant cradled on the left, will go to the brain's right hemisphere.

Dr Todd said: "Previous explanations on the left cradling bias have included the infant's own head posture, or the tranquilising effect of the mother's heart beat.

"But these new findings suggest that, for mothers with typical brain organisation left cradling is the optimum position for interpreting the infant state.

"We are still unclear as to why this effect wasn't found in males, both socialisation and brain organisation could be responsible."

The research was presented at the British Psychological Society Developmental Section Conference on Friday.

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