Thought Leadership

Let’s all hold hands

By Colin Walls

Sometime or other, all of us hold hands with someone else. Whether it is with a “significant other” or with a child, it is just something that humans do. You would probably imagine that there was very little to say on this topic, but you might be surprised.

Researchers have been looking into hand holding. I have to admit that I would like to see their application for funding for this work. I heard about the results of their investigations and decided to do a little research myself …

The research showed that there are certain things about holding hands that seem to be universally constant in a surprising way.

Try this thought experiment [or do it for real, if you want]:

  • Imagine standing side by side with your partner.
  • Reach out and take their hand in yours.
  • Look down at your clasped hands?
  • What do you see?

There is always a “leader” – that is the person who has the back of their hand facing forwards. If the couple is a man and a woman, this is the man in almost every case. The researchers observed this and then tried to explain it. They seemed to think that the explanation was sociological – at least for the most part. They suggested that, in most societies, the male has taken the leading role for many years and this just reflects/illustrates the fact.

I think that the explanation is simpler and purely physical. A man’s arm bones/muscles are configured slightly differently from a woman’s. I do not know why this is the case, but it explains why men find certain kinds of grip and motion easier. For example, a man will tend to carry a bottle with his hand pointing down and the back of the hand facing forwards.

What about a same sex couple? The researchers had nothing to say on this matter. I wonder whether, in most couples, there is a more dominant partner who might take the lead. If you have any input, please email or comment.

The researchers did find something odd. If a woman is holding hands with a child [of either gender], she will tend to take the lead.

A few years ago, I did some research into this topic. I was in a hotel with some work colleagues – mostly other guys, but there was one woman in the team. We were near Dublin, Ireland, but “cut off” from the city as the taxi drivers were all on strike. We were in the bar after dinner, trying to find some amusement. I told the others about this research and, after a few glasses of black liquid, we thought we would check it out and set off to talk with other [similarly bored] people in the bar. Much laughter ensued and I am sure that we had some good solid research results, but my recollection of them is slightly hazy …

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at