Friday, 16 July 2010

Does it matter which hand you pay with?

Last week Simonne and I were fortunate enough to hear Paul Lewis of Radio 4’s Moneybox Live speak at the Financial Services Research Forum. As well as being well-informed and an engaging spekaer as you’d expect, he also had this good tip on debt.
It was that the debt shouldn’t last longer than what you’re buying.

So if you go into debt to cover Christmas, it should be paid off within 12 months. Borrow for a holiday and make sure you’ve cleared the debt before the next trip away. Go into debt for a pair of shoes but only for as long as they’re in fashion. This would be, he joked, about two weeks. We have to take issue with him there!

My own talk to the forum was about left and right brain processes. Afterwards Paul passed on to me a delightful little Do Something Different tip that he said he came up with years ago. It’s this.

Pay with the opposite hand.

Not only will this feel different, it might affect your conscious experience in another way. The right hand connects to the left brain hemisphere and the left hand to the right. Since the left is more logical/thinking and the right more intuitive/feeling, will this make a difference? Who knows, but it’s worth a try. 

Also scientists have shown that generally people associate the right side with positive concepts, life and all things good and the left with negativity and death. But in left-handers it's the opposite, which suggests it's not a cultural norm but a personal one. 

So left-handers are an interesting example of conceptual associations resulting from sensory-motor experience. According to this theory, left and right handers should feel less positive when paying with the opposite hand.

If you try it, let us know how it felt. Just don’t drop those sale shoes while trying to get out your credit card with the wrong hand. Some quick right hander could have them away before you can say 'short fashion fix'!


  1. I love this tip Karen. I'm a bit of an impulse buyer and this would be an excellent strategy to make me stop and think.

    plus I know it is so good for the brain to challenge the norm. I suspect I am going to find it really difficult.


  2. Hi Penelope,

    Challenging the brain's 'norm', as you say, IS a really powerful way to stop any unwanted behaviour - be interested to know how this affects your impulse buying!


  3. This is a fascinating idea. I think it was the inability to get the John Lewis rug in the car that stopped me from the potential impulse buy on Wednesday. I love the concept of DSD and all the work you do around this - I share it with the women I coach.

  4. It is a cultural norm for some people. I come from a part of Africa where it's disrespectful to hand over things with your left hand. Consequently I tend to feel more relaxed (and less mindful) of gestures or actions with my left hand, whereas I am more conscious of what I do with my right. Switching sides might be a disaster for me, financially!


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