Letter | Published:

Unconscious Bias in Walking

Nature volume 29, page 504 | Download Citation



THIRTY or more tests in walking, with closed eyes, on a nearly level lawn lightly covered with newly-fallen snow, gave the following results:—My natural gait, in which I step a half to three-quarters of an inch further with my right foot than with my left, always produced a sharp curve to the right. Whenever the step made by either foot was about three inches greater than that made by the other my course was substantially straight. A curve to the left always resulted when either foot stepped more than three inches further than the other. Unnatural toeing out of either foot did not change the result. My right arm is three-quarters of an inch longer than my left, but my legs are of equal length. Both limbs on my right side are stronger and more skilful than those on the left. When but a single action is required, it is my right arm or my right leg that prefers to perform it. When two actions are necessary, the right side chooses that requiring the greater skill, leaving to the left the plainer work, regardless of the power demanded by it. Thus, in mounting a horse, or leaping across a ditch in the ordinary manner, I spring from the left foot; yet if I am to land on the foot from which I start, I can hop higher and farther with my right leg. I can also lift a greater weight with it; and can lower myself to, and raise myself from, a kneeling position with the right leg alone—a feat impossible for me to perform with the left. In my case, at least, the division of labour is decided by skill, and not by strength. The effects, considered in connection with the further observation that in walking the foot which for the time being supports the person does not rock into a pushing position until the other foot has completed its forward motion and is ready to drop to the ground, incline me to the opinion that walking is a reaching rather than a pushing process. Perhaps photography may help to decide this point.

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  1. New York, March 10

    • J. E. SMITH


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