Thanks for your fascinating question! I expected that scientific study
on this subject would be nearly non-existent, but was surprised to
find that a great deal of research has been done on the topic.
Dr. Fergus Reilly examines the subject in depth in an article titled
"Brain Hemisphere Utilisation"
(http://www.cybersayer.com/eyesite/hemsphr.html). Here's some of what
Reilly has to say:
"You may observe that some people fold their arms in different ways -
left over right or vice versa. Trying to change the way you fold your
arms will quickly demonstrate how comfortable you are with the way you
have learnt to do it and any other way feels strange.
"What does this demonstrate? It is an indication of your pattern of
hemispheric dominance at the time when you learnt to fold your arms.
For most of us, this occurred at an age between 2 and 3."
Usage of one side of the body over the other indicates a favoring of
the opposite side of the brain. If, for example, you habitually cross
your left arm over your right, a left-body tendency is indicated;
since the left side of the body corresponds with the right side of the
brain, this is an indication that you favor your right brain over your
left (or at least did so when forming the habit as a child). For more
insight into your hemispheric dominance, try the exercises found at <
You can see from the quiz that the question of sidedness is not nearly
as simple as "left-handed equals left-bodied" (note that the quiz's
title ? "You may be more left-handed than you think" ? is a bit of a
misnomer, as the quiz is concerned with left-*sided* traits, not
merely left-handedness). Even if you're left handed, for example, you
may have a number of other traits that indicate latent right-sidedness
(left-brain dominance). It's not a question of either/or, but of where
you fall on the right-brain/left-brain spectrum.
If the quiz revealed that you have more right-body usage than left,
you may very likely have strong verbal, analytical, and problem
solving skills, traits associated with the left brain. If, on the
other hand, you lean more to left-sidedness, you may be a right-brain
favorer: artsy, good with math, and highly visual. Interestingly,
according to the research of graduate student Brian Josephson (
http://coe.sdsu.edu/eet/Articles/dominance/index.htm ), females tend
to be more right-brained (left-body dominant) and males more
left-brained (right-body dominant).
Chris McManus, author of Right Hand, Left Hand, notes that dominance
patterns are usually formed in early childhood as the brain matures
and thinking becomes more complex. Your pattern of folding your arms a
certain way, then, is probably the way you naturally did it in
childhood; it's become so habitual that anything else feels awkward.
"Arm-folding seems to be completely constant across the life-span of
individuals. A nice example can be seen in photographs of Picasso
across his life-span, in many of which he likes to stand staring
straight at the camera with his arms folded, always in the same way
with the left wrist on top." (
While hemispheric preference is strongly entrenched, however, Fergus
Reilly notes that should you ever have the desire, right/left
preferences can be reversed by conscious effort. "Brain dominance is a
flexible and changeable asset," he writes. "Although the predominant
hemisphere preference changes slowly, taking roughly 9 months to
complete a switch from one side to the other, you are [then] able to
switch sides with ease in a fraction of a second."
You might find the following resource interesting:
From which side does your body speak?
< http://www.connectuscanada.com/icebreaker4.htm >
I used search strings including the following to find your answer:
body language fold arms right left
traits people fold left arm over right
what arm folding preference reveals
psychology arm folding preference
habit fold arms right over left
how we naturally fold arms
significance lateral preference arm folding
I hope you find this information as interesting as I did, and please
let me know if you require clarification!