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 video and radio producer based in New York, and a former senior video producer at The Atlantic.

Our Incredible, Microscopic World

Highlights from Nikon's Small World in Motion competition, featuring zebrafish embryos, killer T cells attacking cancer, and much more

Join the Discussion

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

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Horrors of Rat Hole Mining

"The river was our source of water. Now, the people won't touch it."

Video

What's Your Favorite Slang Word?

From "swag" to "on fleek," tweens choose.

Video

Cryotherapy's Dubious Appeal

James Hamblin tries a questionable medical treatment.

Video

Confessions of Moms Around the World

In Europe, mothers get maternity leave, discounted daycare, and flexible working hours.

Video

How Do Trees Know When It's Spring?

The science behind beautiful seasonal blooming

More in Video

Just In