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Right-handed people don't care for reggae

The hand you use to write, brush your teeth, and throw a ball may also tip people off to your taste in music, a new study reveals.

An Ohio researcher has found that people with a strong preference for using their right hand for most everything they do, seem to like popular types of music and tend to shy away from less familiar genres, especially bluegrass and reggae.

Strong righties, the study suggests, may be less open to new musical experiences and tend to gravitate toward styles they're more familiar with.

The research also found that people who are mixed-handed, meaning they use their non-dominant hand for at least two activities but it does not mean ambidextrous, reported broader musical interests. They showed greater "open-earedness," or a stronger liking of unpopular musical styles and more willingness to listen to them.

Many factors influence our music preferences, so why would hand choice matter? In part, it's affected by what's happening between the ears -- in the brain.

"Mixed-handers are more 'in touch' with a wide variety of right hemisphere processes," says study author Stephen Christman, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio. The right hemisphere of the brain plays a key role in updating thoughts and beliefs and in allowing us to see things in new ways, he explains, while the left hemisphere tends to stick with the tried and true.

Christman notes that about 80 percent of left-handers are mixed-handers while about 60 percent of righties are strong-handed.

The study, published in the journal Psychology of Music, looked at 92 college students who completed a hand preference survey. Forty-nine students were strong right-handers and 43 were mixed-handed.

Four participants were strongly left-handed, too small a group for statistical analysis. But  other studies have found that the taste preferences of strong left-handers tend to resemble strong right-handers more than mixed-handers.

Students were asked to rate how often they listened to 21 different musical genres and their enjoyment of them. Nine were considered "popular" based on recording industry sales figures and the rest were "unpopular." Popular categories included classic rock, heavy metal, country and rap/hip-hop. Unpopular genres ranged from jazz and world to folk and reggae.

The top three musical choices of strong right-handers were R&B, modern pop and alternative rock; mixed-handers favored R&B followed by alternative rock and modern rock.

Although this study looked at college students, Christman suspects his findings would still apply to middle-age and older adults. He says "many of our enduring musical preferences are formed during our high school and college years, and they persist into adulthood."

Still, those interests can expand. Christman advises strong-handed people to keep exposing yourself to new forms of music and listening to unfamiliar genres. "Give the music a little time, and you may find yourself developing a liking for it and rewarded by broader musical horizons."

That's what happened to him. Christman's musical tastes have long favored acoustic/folk-based genres. But when his daughter started bringing home CDs by Eminem and Ludacris, the mixed-hander quickly developed an intense liking for rap and hip-hop.

What's been your experience? Are you right-handed, left-handed, mixed-handed? What kind of music is your favorite?