What is it about?

This research introduces a new concept in clinical training that has never been reported in any paper - Symmetrization! In this paper, our interdisciplinary research team combined psychology, artificial intelligence, and medical education to investigate the effect of laterality, personality, and learning style on the manual dexterity of the non-dominant hand.

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Why is it important?

We believe that implementing our proposed symmetrization-skill-acquisition framework, within the pre-clinical instruction process, may have a practical and efficient value for the profession of dentistry. The ideal format would be to allow students to assess their needs for optional training and to participate as much, or as little, as they determine necessary. The finding of our research study should not be taken to suggest that students who possess certain traits are ‘better’ dentists; however, they may help instructors to guide students that would benefit from additional development to ultimately increase their clinical capacity as practitioners.


Based on the findings of this paper on the links between laterality, personality and the manual dexterity of the non-dominant hand, I have engaged in thought-provoking discussions about the concepts that inform this piece with a range of generous and insightful dental educators and education policy makers. I have been deeply inspired and encouraged by the shared enthusiasm to rethink what dental education can be and should be in the future. Instructors who are keen on the idea of promoting the development symmetrized dentists are left with the sole task of identifying ‘eligible’ students and, consequently, develop an effective training strategy and evaluate its effectiveness. The most effective method by which to acquire skills in a complex task is deliberate practice. The following is a proposed symmetrization-skill-acquisition framework that, we believe, can provide a tentative basis for further, more rigorous investigations of a theoretical or experimental nature. Phase I: Surveying students for handedness, personality and learning style. This should take place at least three months before the operative dentistry pre-clinical module that usually takes place in the phantom-head laboratory. Phase II: Students who possess the extroverted intuitive personality trait will be encouraged to participate in a one-time training session in the phantom-head laboratory to identify those who reveal ‘talent’ or promise in using their non-dominant hand. By the end of this session, the instrumental value of symmetrization will be explained and the successful students will be instructed on how to perform deliberate self-practice. However, ineligible students may also be considered for participation if they show interest as this would not only give them the opportunity to explore their potential but also provide additional data/evidence on the differences/relationships between personality traits and handedness. At this stage, students will be offered voluntary access to the phantom-head laboratory and will be given feedback on improvements in performance if any. The voluntary training is an extended period of preparation ending with the student’s commitment to pursue symmetrization in specifically tailored training sessions (i.e. phase III). Phase III: This phase represents a commitment to improving practice, during which the highest level of achievement is to be expected. Although this training session is individually tailored, only performance remarks can be given as direct instruction cannot be provided. This is because the acquisition of the targeted skill is entirely up to the student and his/her innate ability. Phase IV: This phase can be designed to run for the entire duration of the pre-clinical module. It is worth mentioning here, however, that our proposed framework only predicts that the probability of acquiring symmetrization is related to the amount of effort and work invested towards that goal. Nevertheless, caution should be taken while running such adjunct training activities as not to negatively affect students’ academic performance in other modules.

Dr. Abubaker Qutieshat
University of Dundee

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Personality, learning styles and handedness: The use of the non‐dominant hand in preclinical operative dentistry training, European Journal Of Dental Education, October 2020, Wiley,
DOI: 10.1111/eje.12616.
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