Why We Tend to Show Our Left Side in Pictures

Centuries of art shed light on a small scientific mystery.

When you pose for a photo, toward which side do you naturally turn? If you turn to your right, you're in good company: most portraits throughout art history—and over 90 percent of depictions of Jesus on the cross—show the subject turning to his right, exposing more of the left side of the face.

Why? One answer could be that we tend to find the left sides of faces more attractive. That may have something to do with our neurology: the right brain, which controls the left side of the body, deals more with emotions. So the left half of faces are often more expressive.

In the video above, science writer Sam Kean, author of the upcoming book The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, explains the scientific origins of this phenomenon—and why you might even see this bias in your high school yearbook.

Katherine Wells is a senior video producer at The Atlantic. More

Wells was formerly a producer of WNYC's Freakonomics Radio and NPR's Science Friday.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Video

Just In