We must not have been looking very carefully when we remarked on the uncannily similar appearances of New Jersey’s 12th district congressional candidates Rush Holt and Scott Sipprelle on our September 8 cover. While we thought that their nearly identical outfits, poses, and facial expressions were an ironic coincidence given their opposing political views, at least one person noticed a physical difference between the two: Holt had his arms crossed right over left; Sipprelle’s were crossed left over right.

This subtle distinction also went unnoticed by Mea Kaemmerlen, a columnist for the Times of Trenton, until her friend Bob Varrin pointed out a potentially meaningful distinction between the candidates implied by their photos. As Kaemmerlen related in a September 16 column, Varrin, a former engineering professor and member of the Historical Society of Princeton’s board along with Sipprelle, explained that the way a person folds his arms can be an indicator of his dominant brain hemisphere. Holt’s position leaves his top (left) hand pointing to the right side of his brain, signifying a dominant right hemisphere, and Sipprelle’s top (right) hand points to the left side of his brain, signifying the opposite.

But what does it mean to be left-brained or right-brained? Cognitive abilities are not evenly distributed throughout the brain. The left hemisphere, for example, has long been believed to control language comprehension, while the right hemisphere houses spatial reasoning skills. Generally the right hemisphere is thought of as the creative side and the left as the analytical side. In most people one hemisphere is dominant, affecting the way they think and solve problems based on the processes controlled by that hemisphere.

So what does this tell us about our candidates? Maybe nothing – as Varrin notes there is no scientific rationale for the link between arm folding and hemisphere dominance – but maybe, as Kaemmerlen theorizes, it can offer some insight into the way the candidates approach the issues. If Holt is in fact right-brained, as his arms suggest, he may address problems in creative ways rather than in the straightforward analytical way the left-brained Sipprelle might.

Then again maybe that’s just our right (creative) brains telling us that something more than life experiences and personal values can shape the candidates’ political opinions. Voters will determine their preferred candidate more scientifically on Tuesday, November 2, when they will head to the polls to elect, or re-elect, a 12th district representative.

#b#Note:#/b# Read the full text of Kaemmerlen’s column here: http://princetoninfo.com/index.php?option=com_us1more&key=9-22-10kaemmerlen

#b#To the Editor:#/b#

U.S. 1’s September 8 cover story was a thoughtful, unbiased analysis of the two candidates and clearly differentiated them. Commentary in last week’s edition by the writer from Spotswood echoes my sentiments.

Since election Rush Holt has not faced a serious re-election challenge. This year is different. To his credit, Rep. Holt has been available and responsive when approached by his constituents. That said, when in Washington, he is a sycophant to the Obama/Pelosi agenda, which is clearly taking our country in the wrong direction. Scott Sipprelle offers clear alternatives and a fresh, unencumbered perspective on critical issues.

Albert H. Swanke Jr., Varsity Avenue, West Windsor

I’ve met Rush Holt and had thought him a decent guy. I had never faulted him for falsely touting himself as a rocket scientist as I considered it harmless exaggeration. However, false statements Rush has been making about his opponent for Congress, e.g., that he is against women receiving equal pay for equal work, are demeaning to the office Rush holds.

Tom Meagher, Lawrenceville

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