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An iSteve reader writes:

When you fold your arms, which forearm is on top? According to this photo:

President Trump puts his left forearm on top, and Prime Minister Abe puts his right forearm on top.

Has anyone collected statistics on people’s arm-folding posture, and found any correlations with sex, age, nationality, etc.?

I’m right-handed and I fold my arms with my left arm on top. It took me several tries to force myself to fold my arms with my right arm on top.

This may have to do with me being right-handed: I fold my arms by having my right hand come up and grab by left upper arm while my left hand merely slides into place under my right arm.. It’s harder for me to conceptualize how to have my left hand grab my right upper arm, just as most novel motions with my left hand require more thought than the equivalent motions with my right hand.

Is Abe lefthanded? I don’t see any evidence in a brief search. Both Trump and Abe play golf right-handed, although lots of lefthanders start off golfing with their dad’s old right-handed clubs and simply stay that way, so

Or maybe the Japanese do things backwards?

It turns out that several geneticists have studied arm-folding to see if it is a Mendelian trait. Apparently, it is not. But I don’t see anything about handedness and arm-folding.

A similar trait is hand-folding. If you interweave your fingers, which thumb comes out on top?

With me, it’s the right thumb.

If we counted up who is in the minority on this, we could have affirmative action identity politics for them. How do you know you aren’t disparately discriminating against right arm on top folders, like, say, me? Can you prove you don’t suffer from Implicit Bias?

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  1. Interesting. I’m right handed, I fold my arms with the left on top, but I interlace my fingers with the left thumb on top.

    It’s Little-Endians vs Big Endians, but on more than one axis. I propose that iSteve commenters should be organized, and identify themselves, accordingly.

    • Replies: @Venator
    , @Pat Boyle
  2. Of course you have your left arm on top; you’re in the northern hemisphere; now, if you were to cross your arms in the southern hemisphere, your right arm would be on top. That’s just science.

    • Agree: Stan d Mute
    • Replies: @Anon
  3. I’m right-handed and fold my arms with the right on top, and interlace my fingers with the left thumb on top. Weirdest though is the way I part my hair. I use my left hand to part it to my left, which is the opposite from how most right-handed people do it.

    • Replies: @Realist
    , @Elsewhere
  4. MEH 0910 says:

    Right handed.

    Arm folding – left arm on top.

    Hand folding – left thumb on top.

  5. Wilkey says:

    If you’re judging on appearance and expression (and you shouldn’t, but I will) Shinzo Abe appears to be far and away the most intelligent person in that room, while Merkel just looks like the mulishly stubborn, shrill globalist that she is.

    From Wikipedia on Shinzo Abe: “Abe is a conservative whom political commentators have widely described as a right-wing nationalist. He is a member of the revisionist Nippon Kaigi and holds revisionist views on Japanese history, including denying the role of government coercion in the recruitment of comfort women during World War II.”

    There is no denying that the Japanese were complete shits during World War II, but that should be for their victims to talk about. Abe is smart enough to realize that obsessing about your country’s mistakes is a great way to undermine and destroy your country’s self-confidence. I can’t really blame the Japanese for pretending it didn’t happen, and certainly don’t hold it against them. Merkel, OTOH, has demonstrated just how destructive a guilty conscience can be. Her personal motives may be pure globalist, but the Germans who reelected her have been taught to hate themselves for 73 years.

  6. This borders on self-satire. It’s the alt-right’s obsession with genetic determinism taken to an absurd extreme. An interesting scientific question, and all questions must be open to scientific inquiry, though some, like this one, are not worthy of serious consideration. I am more intrigued by the state of a mind that would conceive of such a question, and what this line of thinking says about its author.

    I don’t think the alt-right is putting on a facade, for the most part. I really think large segments of it are trapped in a genetic absolutist frame of mind. Some things are certainly genetic, but many other important traits and mannerisms are a product of “nurture” factors and even situational context. My family is of middle eastern descent and we reach for everything in public life – door knobs, handshakes, etc – with the right hand. It’s not genetic (mostly). We are taught to treat the right hand as the “clean” hand. Im sure there is an element of evolutionary pressure here too; I suspect that folks who often mixed up their hands were more likely to die of cholera and other fecal-oral diseases.

    As for the question, I fold my arms both ways. Left over right if i’m wearing a nice watch and want to impress, right over left if I’m wearing a beater watch or if I just don’t want to look like a douche showing off his watch.

  7. Venator says:
    @Wilbur Hassenfus

    Right forearm on top.
    Left thumb on top.
    Clockwise ballerina.

    This may lead to internecine conflict amongst iStevers.

    • Replies: @AnotherDad
  8. With me, it’s the right thumb.

    You disgusting mutant freak! I’m going to boycott Unz until you’re gone, this world needs to be rid of right thumb on top evil oppressors like you. End this opposing digit fascism NOW!

    • LOL: res
  9. Is June the arm-folding month?!

    I tried just recently, wether I – however secretly – discriminate against myself, by folding my arms in the way almost everybody else does around here.

    My cearest insight was, that it’s fun to do this left arm on the top right arm on the top experiment while riding the bike.

  10. @Wilkey

    If you’re judging on appearance and expression (and you shouldn’t, but I will) Shinzo Abe appears to be far and away the most intelligent person in that room, while Merkel just looks like the mulishly stubborn, shrill globalist that she is.

    What I see is a bunch of children (Abe excepted) supplicating an adult for candy denied to them. Trump holds the trump cards here clearly. America is a food and energy exporter. It needs nothing from any of these nations. But they all need a LOT from America (food, energy, weapons, protection, etc). Plus, as a trade deficit nation, we owe everybody money. What’s to stop us from just telling them all to go piss up a rope? What could any of them do about it?

    This has to be extremely unsettling after decades and decades of them moralizing against us on how inferior and barbaric we are because of our negro problem. And meanwhile, they’re all getting a strong taste of what it means to have large African populations in their mist (yeah – that was intended). I’m enjoying the hell out of this.

    • Agree: RadicalCenter
    • Replies: @hyperbola
  11. Left-right asymmetry has many manifestations.
    - Handedness: left-handed versus right-handed when handwriting, batting in baseball (or cricket), throwing a ball or atlatl
    - Putting on clothes: which leg first into a pants-leg, which arm first into a shirt-sleeve?
    - Shaving: Do men who read a left-to-right language shave left-cheek-first? Do Arabs and Hebrews shave right-cheek-first?
    - Arm folding: which forearm ends on top?
    - When you help a person put on a coat, are you a right-arm firster, or a left-arm firster?
    - When you depict hands in prayer, are you a rightist, or a leftist? (This means you, Albrecht Dürer!)

  12. Could be taking a defensive stance as opposed to a neutral or friendly position.

    People from more dangerous continental cultures keep a potential enemy to the left and the guard (left) arm forward (or above when folded) and ready to block and the right hand back and ready to strike. We also drive on the right as a residue of this behavior.

    People from less dangerous island cultures can safely allow a stranger to approach on the right. They also drive on the left as a residue of that behavior.

  13. It’s customary to fold your arms with your left arm on top after you’ve just deposed the bolsheviks and saved your country from socialist misery.

    • LOL: Unzerker
  14. The real thing to note here is that — among Germans — folding one’s arms is a sign of belligerence. POTUS Trump is showing “Mutti” Merkel that he’s not about to back down.


    • Replies: @Brutusale
  15. Right-handed ; fold hands with left on top.

  16. Arm-folding and hand-folding both seem to happen randomly either way for me, but more often the right-handed way described by Steve. This makes sense, due to the Triumph TR3-induced ambidexterity that was forced on me at age six by a car accident that badly broke my initially-dominant right arm.

    Another thing with the hands might be called hand-clasping: When you grasp your hands together palm-to-palm, fingers not intertwined (as if you are going to hold them up together over your head and shake them in, um, “triumph”) which hand’s fingers are on top grasping between the thumb and forefinger of the other? This would seem to be the strong position, sort of on top of the other hand.

    For me that is always the right hand, but this may have something to do with that British roadster accident. My right wrist does not rotate quite all the way outward, so turning it under the other hand is difficult. (Rotating the right hand around and touching my right shoulder with my fingertips is impossible, again thanks to British engineering.)

    Trump and Abe in the photo, BTW, are non-verbally being somewhat skeptical and standoffish. Folded arms block other people and separate you from them. You are attentive but you are reserving judgement. This is exactly what we want to see in the President in this situation. I learned this stuff in college, and I didn’t even borrow money to do it.

  17. I’m right-handed and I fold my arms with my left arm on top. It took me several tries to force myself to fold my arms with my right arm on top….

    How do you know you aren’t disparately discriminating against right arm on top folders, like, say, me?

    Well, which is it? Is your left arm on top or your right?

    I’m right handed and my automatic tendency is to have my right arm on top, as it allows me to unfold my arms quickly with my right arm free to respond to something.

  18. I never ever intertwine my arms or fingers, that is a big no no in CQC readiness. If I must cross my arms I lay an arm on top of my other arm. I use the hand on top to hold the lower tricep of the arm underneath and hold the hand on bottom in the armpit area of the top arm.

    Under no circumstances do I ever intertwine my fingers.

  19. Right hander, right arm on top.

    I just tried to do it the other way around and it took me a couple of tries to even do it.

    By instinct I kept just moving the right arm too.

  20. Alfa158 says:

    I think it is random. I’m left handed but fold my left arm on top and interlace my fingers with my right thumb on top. But then I’m cross dominant. Left handed, but right leg dominant and right eye dominant.

  21. dearieme says:

    Right arm on top, right thumb on top. Right-handed but my mother claimed that I had been left-handed when small. At soccer more nearly two-footed than most of my pals so therefore spent most time playing on the left. Played rugby right-footed, batted at cricket as a right hander and bowled right arm. Once as an experiment I played squash left-handed. Still won.

  22. BenKenobi says:

    Best detail of the Trump photo: dude in between Merkel and Abe.

  23. Thirdtwin says:

    Maybe it depends on which side of the road your country drives on.

  24. CJ says:

    What I get from that picture is that Abe is totally onside with Trump and Japan is now U.S. ally #1. And Bolton is hilarious.

    Left-hander, left arm on top. Right thumb on top when interlacing fingers.

  25. I’m left handed. Left arm on top, right thumb on top.

  26. Another data point: I’m right-handed, my arms fold with the right arm on top, and my hands fold with the left thumb on top.

    If I ever go to Australia, and I can remember to, I’ll try both down there to check on that Southern Hemisphere thing.

  27. Forbes says:

    Right-handed–my right arm comes on top when crossing my arms (though either left or right on top doesn’t feel awkward), but my left thumb comes on top when interweaving my fingers (right thumb on top does feel awkward). FWIW.

  28. Coemgen says:

    Cross arms with right arm on top
    Fold hands with left thumb on top

    Trump appears be a Myers-Briggs ENTJ while I’m more INTP. Is there an association with personality style and appendage positioning preferences?

  29. I shoot my rifles right handed, when I played baseball I caught right, batted left. My dad was right handed, but his twin brother lefty. I fold my arms like my President. All I know is that Mustache John Bolton looks like an idiot with that thing on his lip, and Trump looks like he just told dumpy old Merkel to get back to the kitchen and make him a sandwich, cause he’s running the show now.

  30. Unzerker says:

    It took me a few tries to get my right hand on top too.

    Abe Shinzo is right handed, judging from his signing pictures. So it has to be random.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  31. Right handed, right arm on top when folded (like Abe not Trump), and left thumb on top when I interlock my fingers.

    FWIW it did take me 2 tries over about 1.5 seconds to figure out how to put the left arm on top while crossing my arms. It was surprisingly awkward.

    If it makes any difference, I am also left-eyed.

  32. Pat Boyle says:
    @Wilbur Hassenfus

    I fold my arms opposite from what you do Steve. Assuming that you are right handed and you are doing it in the genetically appropriate pattern for right handers, then I’m doing it wrong.

    As I posted last week I was born left handed but converted by Sister Fidelis in Catholic grade school. Maybe my sinister side is trying to re-emerge.

  33. Polymath says:

    Who’s the cutie at the far right?

  34. hyperbola says:
    @Stan d Mute

    The USA has been a net importer of food for about 20 years already. In fact, we even import a lot of food from China.

    The U.S. Imports A Lot of Food from China — and You Might Be Surprised What’s on the List

    …. China is responsible for 90 percent of the vitamin (C) consumed by Americans, 78 percent of the tilapia, 70 percent of the apple juice, 50 percent of the cod, 43 percent of the processed mushrooms and 23 percent of the garlic….

    • Replies: @Stan d Mute
    , @hyperbola
  35. Beckow says:

    The picture summarises the dead-end of Western civilisation better than anything I have seen recently.

    ‘What’s our next move’? Oh, sh..t…people fold their arms when they are folding and protecting. These guys are done.

  36. Bolton is looking at Merkel like he’d enjoy a roll in the hay with her. He must be seriously deprived.

    Surely the Japanese brought some cute Asian girls with them. Maybe they could offer one up to Bolton in exchange for him agreeing not to start WWIII?

  37. I’m right-handed and I fold my arms with my left arm on top. It took me several tries to force myself to fold my arms with my right arm on top.

    Steve, maybe it’s because your left arm is five or six inches shorter than your right. Naturally, your atrophied, vestigial left arm would want to rest on top of your normal right one.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    , @MEH 0910
  38. Right-handed
    Right arm on top (for folding arms)
    Left thumb on top when interlocking fingers.

    My guess is that how you start folding your arms is pretty random, but you tend to repeat this method over-and-over. Same with interlocking fingers.

    On the other hand, I’m inclined to think that right/left handedness is genetic. My wife is right-handed, and we have two sons who are left-handed. But we both have brothers who are left-handed.

  39. @Venator

    I’m close to you:

    Left forearm on top.
    Left thumb on top.
    Clockwise ballerina.
    And jumping to another realm …
    Blue/black dress.

    I can–given repeated attempts–occasionally reverse the ballerina. It was a hellofa long time before I could make myself see the dress as white/gold. (I honestly think the white-gold people are just “wrong” and that is in fact the case–it’s a blue dress.)

  40. Is there no file photo of this same group featuring Trudeau’s oeter ouffer limp wrist?

    I mean ,uh. . .?

  41. @ElitistSettler

    “I suspect that folks who often mixed up their hands were more likely to die of cholera and other fecal-oral diseases.”

    I suspect that retardates who got their left hand into shit to start with suffered a disparate impact from cholera and other fecal-oral diseases.” How did your ancestors deal with the 10 per cent left handers of any level of intelligence at all?

    • Replies: @ElitistSettler
  42. Right handed. Fold arms with right arm on top, right hand slightly into my jacket so I can quickly draw out my piece, How else would you do that?

    • Replies: @Brutusale
  43. MEH 0910 says:
    @the one they call Desanex

  44. I’m surprised that Germany posted that photo to boast of physically intimidating Trump. Some might view that as out-bullying the bully, but others will view Germany as more aggressive and less sympathetic.

    Next, Germany and Canada are protecting their large legacy tariffs against US good while fighting for the perception of being anti-tariff saints. While the news seems to favor Canada + EU at the moment, I bet Trump will win that fight, simply because the Canadian + EU position is innately hypocritical: they impose giant tariffs and want to be considered anti-tariff.

  45. @hyperbola

    The USA has been a net importer of food for about 20 years already. In fact, we even import a lot of food from China.

    So the USDA is lying? You have sources?

  46. Anon[257] • Disclaimer says:
    @Senator Blutarsky

    Love your name. Can I be the beautiful Mrs Blutarsky?

    • Replies: @anonymous
    , @Brutusale
  47. As usual there are two incomplete answers and one correct answer from me here.

    Rei Ayanami can be seen to spin both ways in silhouette. The original ballerina guy must have sort of plagiarized the illusion concept from there (perhaps subconsciously) since I have never seen any credit given to it before but the parallel is too strong for it not to be a reference. To be fair if the artist did give credit somewhere (not in English…) someone could dig that up.

    Though I suppose seeing it clockwise is incidentally a bit easier for me in either case.

    As for arbitrary preferences, right arm on top and right thumb on top. (and right handed)

  48. markflag says:

    Am very left-handed. Fold arms with right arm on top. Fold hands with right thumb on top but that took a lot of practice for it to feel natural. When I learned to bowl as a 12 year-old I wanted to use my left arm but dad insisted on the right. Does Abe golf right-handed from intentional choice?

  49. 3g4me says:

    Left handed (totally). Fold right arm on top and interlace fingers with right thumb on top. I’m glad both my boys are right handed.

  50. Anonymous[249] • Disclaimer says:

    Left-handed Japanese of Abe’s generation were generally forced to write with their right hand, so signing is not necessarily indicative of right-handedness.

    (Conversely, presumably no right-dominant person signs with the left hand.)

  51. Mostly left handed. Shoot, arch[ery], fence, write, use a fork, fisticuffs, tennis on the left. Throw, catch, bat, shoot a basketball, serve a volley ball on the right.

    Left arm on top, right thumb on top.

    Is it possible the photo is reversed? I can’t tell.

    • Replies: @John Henry
  52. @John Henry

    The photo is not reversed. The flag on Trump’s lapel faces correctly. Her jacket is right over left. Men’s coats are left over right. There is a wedding ring on a man’s right hand, but I believe the custom in Europe may be different.

  53. anonymous[403] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    I now denounce you as man and wife.

    (Prof. Irwin Corey, “The World’s Foremost Authority)

  54. Svigor says:

    Right-handed, left arm on top (because strong hand grabs weak arm, as you describe), left thumb on top.

    Merkel’s body language = begging for a strong backhand.

  55. Philip Neal says: • Website

    The fact that Trump is the only figure in the entire picture to be seated (and other shots of the scene confirm it) suggests to me that until a few moments before it was taken he was standing up himself. With the world’s most powerful woman in mid-sentence, he abruptly sits down, folds his arms, a faint smile playing on his lips… and the rest is instant history.

  56. trelane says:

    Abe appears to be folding flippers and not arms across his chest. I’m betting he’s a good swimmer. Does anyone have a photo of young Abe at the beach, perhaps emerging from the surf? Are there any photos of Abe prior to his initial appearance at the beach? Is Abe possibly aquatic or marine in his origin?

  57. @Wilkey

    Ian Buruma’s The Wages of Guilt, when it was assigned in one of my college History courses, enlightened me on the topic of how Germany and Japan dealt with their WW2 roles. Back then, 1994, I didn’t appreciate how the Japanese dealt with their role, but 25 years later I see that the Japanese way has been superior to the German response.

    I’m right handed, left arm on top when arm folding, right thumb on top when hand folding.

  58. Meneldil says:

    I’ve seen that picture around on a lot of articles, from the left or the right, and I think people try to see a lot of things in it that just aren’t there, I doubt they are discussing anything of real importance while the journalists and photographers are in the room.

  59. @Jim Bob Lassiter

    They were forced to use the right hand, even for writing.

    This separation was probably a net boon in the time before anti-bacterial soap. However, it only worked if everyone adhered to it (and if there was the confidence that comes from seeing everyone adhere to it in the same way). There really was no alternative in a part of the world without significant foliage (ie. primitive toilet paper).

    Read Ahmad Fadlan’s 10th century account of the Vikings’ standards of hygiene.

    • Replies: @Jim Bob Lassiter
  60. Anon[393] • Disclaimer says:

    I wonder if or how much effect scoliosis has on arm-folding choice (i.e., incorrect spinal curvature, from negligible through disastrous).

    I have two curves in the spine that are slightly doctor-worthy…to summarize, my left shoulder is higher than the right and also canted forward vis a vis the plane of my chest, my right shoulder does correspondingly lag back from the chest plane also.

    If one shoulder is two inches higher, that ought to factor in dramatically …potentially combined with the person’s “arm conformation” set-up (forearm length to upper arm length ratio = a different individual variability field) to influence which arm feels natural on top…

  61. AnonAnon says:

    Right handed with right arm on top, right thumb on top. Googling tells me the arm crossing and finger weaving is more related to left brain vs. right brain vs. what hand you use. Right arm, right thumb is left brained, which works out for me since I’m an engineer.

  62. Realist says:

    If you’re judging on appearance and expression (and you shouldn’t, but I will) Shinzo Abe appears to be far and away the most intelligent person in that room,….

    Yes, not much of a challenge when you fill a room with idiots.

  63. Realist says:
    @Hapalong Cassidy

    I’m right-handed and fold my arms with the right on top, and interlace my fingers with the left thumb on top.


  64. myself says:

    This borders on self-satire. It’s the alt-right’s obsession with genetic determinism taken to an absurd extreme.

    Exactly! Those were my first thoughts as well.

    Though I don’t think the author thinks this way himself – instead he is parodying and mocking those who notice every little damn detail and then attribute significance to them.

    Also, nothing to do with the alt-right, and more to do with seeing patterns that may or may not be there – I think it’s maybe termed apophenia? Not sure.

  65. Brutusale says:
    @The Old Sarge

    My caption to this photo: Wait your turn, bitch, I’m speaking to Grandma’s Boy!

  66. Brutusale says:
    @Buffalo Joe

    I’m right handed, but the left arm and left thumb end up on top. I want my right arm under the left, closer to the holster.

    It truly does seem weird when to I try to do it the other way.

    • Replies: @Buffalo Joe
  67. Brutusale says:

    Fun Fact: the woman who played the sorority girl that ended up with Blutarsky was a 1973 Playboy Playmate.

    • Replies: @Buffalo Joe
  68. hyperbola says:

    U.S. Imports and Exports: Components and Statistics

    …. Just 9 percent of exported goods are foods, feeds, and beverages ($133 billion). The big three are soybeans ($22 billion), meat and poultry ($19 billion) and corn ($10 billion). Food exports are falling since many countries don’t like U.S. food processing standards. …..

    U.S. Imports
    …. The food, feeds and beverages category is the smallest, at $138 billion….

  69. WHAT says:

    I had to stop and consciously replicate the photo, because I never fold arms. Literally.

  70. IBC says:

    Steve, I get the same results as you except I don’t grasp the opposite arm when I fold them. One of my grandfathers had some mannerisms that are similar to my own even though we didn’t spend that much time together when he was alive –so there might be some sort of genetic link.

    Since in India it’s considered rude to eat with one’s left hand, imagine the disparate impact on left-handed Indian children in terms of curry stains and dropped rice? That could be a worthwhile angle to pursue for “lefty” Brahmins looking to get a leg up in college admissions…

  71. @Brutusale

    Brute, weird when I try the other way, but we will never draw on each other anyway.

  72. @Brutusale

    Brute, what no photos sans the appropriated buck skins?

  73. @ElitistSettler

    So what did Jews and Christians who also traversed the deserts in primitive times do?

    I believe I’d train a goat or a camel to lick my bungee clean.

  74. Big Bill says:

    Try another test. Link your fingers together. Feels normal, right? Now link them together with the other thumb on top. Feels weird. Really weird. So weird that you realize you never, ever link them together that way.

    Are you a left-thumbian or a right-thumbian?

    I am a left-handed right-thumbian.

  75. Big Bill says:

    Sorry for the comment above. I typed before I finished reading the whole comment.

  76. Elsewhere says:
    @Hapalong Cassidy

    Same as you with the arm folding and hand folding, but I part my hair to the right with my right hand. I’m right-handed.

  77. NickG says:

    Dunno about arm folding, but I’m right handed and left eyed so have ambidextrous tendencies (but not in the biblical sense). That is to say my left eye is the dominant one. This makes me crap at snooker. But I learned to shoot rifle off the left shoulder with a pellet gun at the age of about 11 after a family friend advised this. I still shoot rifle off the left shoulder, but am comfortable off either. Handgun I shoot from the right hand but use the left eye to align the sights.

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