I am wondering if any research has been done on whether human beings tend to turn left or right more often (say when attempting to traverse a virtual maze.)

As a subquestion that need not necessarily be answered I am curious whether physiological or cultural factors (I was thinking handedness and whether the subjects first language was written right-to-left or left-to-right) might possibly have some influence.

I feel like I have heard something about this, and even seem to remember that people tended to turn right more often than not. My primary question is whether this is apocryphal or have there actually been scientific studies on this?

  • 1
    It was informally explained to me by an US resident that people entering shops tend to head to the right to start browsing first, and, due to the differing shopping habits of men versus women, US fashion stores put their men's clothes always on the left side of the store. In Australia, fashion stores always put their men's clothes on the left [Ref: personal experience], suggesting either people's preferences are guided by local road traffic rules, or that it is merely a different convention without any basis and this data is merely anecdotal.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 30, 2011 at 8:04
  • 1
    I'm finding a lot of claims (often referencing Paco Underhill), to suggest US shoppers turn right, but nothing that's been peer-reviewed. Please tell me this guy is joking...
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 30, 2011 at 8:06
  • It's a well known fact that when walking (traveling large distance) people have a tendency to turn in a specific (IIRC) right direction instead of walking straight; in the absence of landmarks/orientatonal markers. The knowledge preceeds shopping malls :))) No studies handy at the moment so it's a comment only.
    – user5341
    Jul 30, 2011 at 12:50
  • 1
    This study: cell.com/current-biology/retrieve/pii/S0960982209014791 indicates that people walk in circles (unless they have visual cues), but the direction varies. Is that kind of what you are looking for? Aug 1, 2011 at 2:36
  • 1
    @DVK: actually in that case it's they walk in circles, by the direction is random. "In a follow-up experiment, the researchers challenged 15 people to walk straight while blindfolded. When they couldn't see at all, the walkers ended up going in surprisingly small circles -- with a diameter of less than 66 feet. In repeated attempts, blindfolded walkers circled in one direction sometimes and in the opposite direction other times." news.discovery.com/human/walking-circles.html
    – vartec
    Aug 1, 2011 at 11:02

1 Answer 1


The only reference with sources I found is this cracked article.


Entry number 5. Supermarket definitely use it a lot.

Also from several years of video gaming experience and observation of playing habits of others the pattern while exploring mazes - turn right till there is no more right turns, then backtrack to last intersection and then take other roads is very common. Maybe it can be found in driving lanes explanation - in most of the world while driving the right turn is very cheap and efficient - so this may imprint patterns in movement.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .