Noonian, like his grandfather, Arik, was left-handed, but why would he also establish the characteristic in his android creations?

  • 6
    It has nothing to do with canon, but Brent Spiner is left-handed. Nov 11, 2014 at 1:49
  • 1
    shhhh.... He also does a great Patrick Stewart.
    – ShornSuri
    Nov 11, 2014 at 6:20
  • Almost all "why does data behave in this way" question can probably be answered with "because he should look/behave more human like".
    – PlasmaHH
    Nov 11, 2014 at 11:14
  • 2
    Because he knew that was the proper hand.
    – TylerH
    Nov 11, 2014 at 16:32
  • 2
    @TylerH - And possibly because Nuns don't raise androids or by the 24th century binders and spirals could only be found in museums.
    – ShornSuri
    Nov 11, 2014 at 17:41

3 Answers 3


Data (and Lore) are left-handed because Soong scanned his own brain in order to provide the basis for their positronic brains. Soong himself was left-handed and his neural pathways were evidently laid down with the same handedness.

Later, Data attempts to replicate Soong's work by scanning his own brain and transferring the result to his offspring. While Lal's handedness isn't canonically confirmed (she uses both hands on multiple occasions and appears ambidextrous), it's still a pretty good baseline for the techniques used in the process:

DATA : There was a new submicron matrix-transfer technology introduced at the conference which I discovered could be used to lay down complex neural net pathways...

WESLEY : (understanding) You mean a transfer from your your brain to Lal's.

DATA : Exactly, Wesley. I realized for the very first time it was possible to continue Doctor Soong's work. My initial transfers have produced very encouraging results so I brought Lal's brain back with me to continue. - TNG : The Offspring

As @JasonC has noted in his comment below, Data appears to be capable of using both hands equally well but only does so when he is acting on a fully conscious level. He does seem to favour using his left hand for "muscle-memory" tasks like painting, playing music, using a pen or firing a weapon.

  • Data also appears to be ambidextrous, e.g. Birthright Part 1, as mentioned by Kai below. Data seemed to favor his left-hand for one-handed tasks (realistically because one has to choose a single hand for a one-handed task, and left would make the most sense given Spiner's handedness) but there is no evidence that he is actually single-handed, and I believe the premise of the question and this answer (that Data was left-handed) is incorrect, and this answer is mostly conjecture.
    – Jason C
    Nov 11, 2014 at 17:27
  • @JasonC - He is able to use both hands equally well, but only at a fully conscious level. When left to his own devices, he instinctively uses his left hand.
    – Valorum
    Nov 11, 2014 at 17:38
  • Knowing Noonien Soong, I would say he would have made Data left-handed either way. His androids were a "perfect" representation of his own self-image.
    – Omegacron
    Nov 11, 2014 at 19:14
  • @Omegacron - That's a pretty solid point. A canon quote regarding his vanity might help.
    – Valorum
    Nov 11, 2014 at 19:30

Data could use both of hands equally well, so I don't think it's accurate to call him "left-handed"--he was ambidextrous, although Memory alpha does say that he tended to prefer his left hand for various one-handed activities.

Data, painting one picture with each hand

With that said, I don't believe this quirk was ever explained on the show. Some speculative explanations include:

  • Maybe Data was simply programmed to default to his left hand if there was no reason to use one hand over the other. Left = 0, Right = 1 in his brain or something.
  • It's possible that Soong deliberately engineered this predilection such that Data would have more of his father in him, just as a human child would.
  • It's possible that Data in fact had no such preference, and we just happened to see him using his left hand more often by random chance.
  • There’s another reference on Memory Alpha (under Arik Soong) that indicates all of Noonian’s android creations are left-handed. This would include Lore, B-4 and Lal… though I’m not certain the latter two had enough exposure to determine that.
    – ShornSuri
    Nov 10, 2014 at 23:32
  • 1
    Left = 0? "Data, which way did he go?" "False, Captain."
    – Stick
    Nov 11, 2014 at 18:47

It may have been a conscious decision on Data's part to exhibit handedness. It would certainly be in character for him to choose to have a dominant hand in order to seem more human. In the episode Birthright, Part I, he is shown to paint two paintings at once, one with each hand, which seems to indicate that he was in fact ambidextrous.

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