Gaining the upper hand: Evidence of vertical asymmetry in sex-categorisation of human hands

Genevieve L. Quek*, Matthew Finkbeiner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Visual perception is characterised by asymmetries arising from the brain's preferential response to particular stimulus types at different retinal locations. Where the lower visual field (LVF) holds an advantage over the upper visual field (UVF) for many tasks (e.g., hue discrimination, contrast sensitivity, motion processing), face-perception appears best supported at above-fixation locations (Quek & Finkbeiner, 2014a). This finding is consistent with Previc's (1990) suggestion that vision in the UVF has become specialised for object recognition processes often required in "extrapersonal" space. Outside of faces, however, there have been very few investigations of vertical asymmetry effects for higher-level objects. Our aim in the present study was, thus, to determine whether the UVF advantage reported for face-perception would extend to a nonface object - human hands. Participants classified the sex of hand images presented above or below central fixation by reaching out to touch a left or right response panel. On each trial, a briefly presented spatial cue captured the participant's spatial attention to either the location where the hand was about to appear (valid cue) or the opposite location (invalid cue). We observed that cue validity only modulated the efficiency of the sex-categorisation response for targets in the LVF and not the UVF, just as we have reported previously for face-sex categorisation (Quek & Finkbeiner, 2014a). Taken together, the data from these studies provide some empirical support for Previc's (1990) speculation that object recognition processes may enjoy an advantage in the upper-hemifield.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-143
Number of pages13
JournalAdvances in Cognitive Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2014


  • Attention
  • Hands
  • Lower visual field
  • Sex-categorisation
  • Upper visual field
  • Vertical asymmetry


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