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Handedness, Homicide and Negative Frequency-Dependent Selection

Charlotte Faurie and Michel Raymond
Proceedings: Biological Sciences
Vol. 272, No. 1558 (Jan. 7, 2005), pp. 25-28
Published by: Royal Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30047502
Page Count: 4
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Handedness, Homicide and Negative Frequency-Dependent Selection
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Abstract

Humans exhibit hand preference for most manual activities in which they are specialized. Right- and left-handers have coexisted at least since the Upper Palaeolithic, and left-handers are in the minority in all human populations. The persistence of the polymorphism of handedness is a puzzle because this trait is substantially heritable and several fitness costs are associated with left-handedness. Some countervailing benefit is required to maintain the polymorphism. Left-handers may have a frequency-dependent advantage in fights-the advantage being greater when their frequency is lower. Sports data from Western societies are consistent with this prediction. Here, we show that the frequency of left-handers is strongly and positively correlated with the rate of homicides across traditional societies. It ranges from 3% in the most pacifistic societies, to 27% in the most violent and warlike. This finding is consistent with a frequency-dependent selection mechanism maintaining left-handedness in these societies.

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