Spatial bias may occur in subjects performing a number of cognitive and visual-motor tasks. These include coordinate visuospatial computations (e.g. bisecting a line) and categorical representations of syntactic information (e.g. drawing a picture depicting the action of a sentence). Readers of European languages scan from left-to-right and this learned visual scanning may contribute to leftward spatial bias. In 30 subjects who first learned to read in a top-to-bottom, right-to-left direction (right-left vertical readers, RL), we tested spatial-syntactic bias by reading sentences to subjects, who drew pictures depicting the actions. We noted whether the subject of the sentence was located leftward or rightward of the object. We assessed visual-spatial bias by measuring subjects' accuracy at bisecting lines, and by measuring how closely their drawings on the house-tree-person test were centered on the page. On the spatial-syntactic task, the RL were not right- or left-biased (P=0.581). Korean controls (left-right horizontal readers, LR) also showed no significant spatial-syntactic bias. RL only tended to bisect lines leftward, but displaced house-tree-person drawings left of page center (P<0.001). LR erred leftward on line bisection, and had a smaller magnitude leftward bias on drawing tasks. We conclude that a leftward spatial-syntactic bias may not be innate and does not appear to be influenced by learned reading direction. In contrast, the leftward visual-spatial bias may occur in subjects whose cultural and reading background is neither western nor left-to-right. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.