You are a quadruped

February 2, 2014 • 2:31 pm

by Matthew Cobb

This popped into my Tw*tter feed. Not sure of its original provenance, but it works. Or rather, it worked on me.

There’s a long thread on this at, from 2005. It isn’t a *hoax*, though effects can be variable. It’s been an e-mail, a Facebook page, in some versions it’s ‘from an orthopedic surgeon’ (so it MUST be true of course). There are Youtube videos of people doing it (go look yourself; it isn’t that interesting!), it’s even been picked up by arch-loon David Icke (no I am NOT linking to that lizard). I’m sure many of you have tried this over the years, but I’ve led such a sheltered life I never came across it until today.

Why does it work? According to one 2010 commenter “My God created our bodies and you know our bodies are excellent!!!”, so that’s obviously true. More likely, it proves that we are quadrupeds, and that the movement of our limbs is neurally linked. It seems to me that it’s basically the same effect as one that is well-known by runners: if you want your legs to go faster, pump your arms, although that generally works contra-laterally (ie you pump your left arm, your right arm goes forward). I just tried it with moving my right foot and then doing the gesture with my *left* hand and it didn’t seem to work. (You can tell I have a shedload of marking to do and am engaged in pathetic work avoidance behaviours…).

Those of you who aren’t watching the Superb Owl (I don’t get American ‘football’), chip in below with whether it worked for you, and other examples of weird and wonderful behaviours. Or discuss the flow of this particular ‘meme’ around the internet.

68 thoughts on “You are a quadruped

        1. I had no problem either …

          But since I lost my right leg when I was a child I suspect I had an unfair advantage……..

          1. Me too. My foot slows down a little and I have to think about it more, but I had no problem doing both on the first try.

      1. I had no problems either. Maybe something is wrong with me. I am somewhat ambidextrous if that makes a difference.

        1. No wait, I was using the wrong hand. My foot reversed direction. Stupid brain – listen when you are commanded!

    1. The funny thing is that I have all the evidence in the world to say I have no coordination.

      Could that be linked?

      1. It might be. I had no trouble with it but I have several neurological quirks and am sufficiently uncoordinated that people have always commented on the awkward way that I walk.

          1. I’m very coordinated, have some training in ballet, practice yoga, and dance well. I thought it was because of that, maybe it’s because I’m coordinated.

            Can you rub your stomach and pat you head at the same time? If so, maybe you’re just more in control of these neural connections? I can’t do that one at all.

    2. I was able to do it a couple of times but I had to really concentrate. I wonder if rock drummers and organists can do it.

    3. No problem here, either. Tried it three times, succeeded three times with little difficulty.

      This might be the kind of thing drummers refer to as ‘four-limb separation’.

    1. You’re just way too smart for us. 🙂 Good one!

      When I tried it the first time, I was still startled when my foot changed direction, despite my best intentions, and I even screamed out AAAAAHHHHHH. 🙂

      1. I just said ‘F**k!’

        But it’s true. I could not stop my foot from changing direction. Bizarre!

  1. It’s definitely a lot easier to move my hand & foot in the same direction. Moving them independently is MUCH tougher and requires deliberate thought just to get it right once or twice, let alone repeatedly. Interesting…

  2. So, you put your left foot in and pull your left out then turn it all about.
    Maybe the Hokey Pokey is what it’s all about.

  3. When I was a child, the big thing was to start patting your stomach with you non-dominant hand and start rubbing the top of your head on circles with your dominant hand. The non-dominant hand begins to move in circles while patting.

    With practice, it is possible to make the two move independently.

    If you are right-handed, another is to place two pieces of paper on a table and hold a pen in each hand. Sit with your hands out in front of you. As you begin to write with the right hand, the left will tend to mirror what you’re writing.

  4. I screwed up the first time, then I realized that it doesn’t say that I have to draw the number 6 the same way I was taught.

  5. This little exercise is indeed evidence for ancestral quadrepedality, and also illustrates the fact that (in all vertebrates) the basic movements of locomotion are organized and controlled within the spinal cord, not the brain. Your brain can and does smooth things out and make terrain- and speed-relevant adjustments, but it’s very difficult for it to completely override the spinal patterns.

    1. addendum: therefore fish can thrash, frogs can hop, turtles can crawl, and chickens can run around with their heads cut off.
      Mammals might rely more heavily on the cerebellum; I’m not sure.

  6. First try I could only make a mirror image (backwards, or clockwise) six while the foot was going clockwise. Once I got control of the right hand, then the foot reversed as described.

  7. It’s easy, I don’t see why people have so much difficulty in making different limbs do different things at the same time.

  8. My wife is an organist. I would think an organist could do it, and with six hours a day practice, do it very well. 😉

  9. That was wicked. I still cannot get my foot to maintain CW rotation and I am ambidextrous with everything I do except play stringed instruments.

  10. Well, I’ll be damned, so it is!

    It must have something with the natural movement when we walk or run, left leg and right arm forward when right leg and left arm are back, and inversely. Must have something to do with the left brain controlling the right side of the body and the right brain controlling the left side of the brain.

  11. It’s easy. Start with the circle part of the 6, at roughly 11 o’clock. Make the circular part in a clockwise direction, then go off the circle to make the tail at the top.

    It’s an exercise in perspective, not coordination.

  12. You can if you also try to make 6 in a clockwise direction. Normally when you write or draw 6 it is in anti- clockwise direction and so I suspect that the leg also changes direction.

  13. I tried various combinations.

    1. Right foot CCW -easy
    2. Left hand/foot per the rule – fail
    3. Left foot/right hand and vice versa – easy
    4. Drew a 9 instead of a 6 – easy

    1. It’s because the arm and leg on the same side of the body are hardwired to move in parallel with each other: a feature that makes no sense if humans were poofed into existence as bipeds, but makes complete sense if we evolved from quadrupeds, since it’s a trait that’s only useful for a quadruped.

          1. Other left? What do you mean?

            When you walk or run, the right arm moves in the same direction as the left leg, and the left arm moves in the same direction as the right leg. So, the arm and leg on the same side of the body do not move in parallel.

              1. When I was doing a gym class, the teacher would say, ‘the other left’ when a number of us failed to comply.

              2. It isn’t an American joke per se but just a joke you say when someone mixes up their right from left. You say “your other left” or “your other right” to make then aware they picked the wrong arm or leg.

              3. Happens a lot when you are learning to square dance:

                “Allemande left” — “Grand right and left” — “Left hand star” — “Right hand star” — &c.

                Ohhh, boy….

  14. How about this one: believing in a religion of your choice while at the same time believing your not an idiot

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