Right hemisphere advantage in individual recognition (as shown by differences between response to strangers and companions) is clear in the domestic chick. Chicks using the left eye (and so, thanks to the complete optic decussation, predominantly the right hemisphere) discriminate between stranger and companion. Chicks using the right eye discriminate less clearly or not at all. The ability of left eyed chicks to respond to differences between strangers and companions stimuli is associated with a more general ability to detect and respond to novelty: this difference between left and right eyed chicks also holds for stimuli which are not social partners. The right hemisphere also shows advantage in tasks with a spatial component (topographical learning; response to change in the spatial context of a stimulus) in the chick, as in humans. Similar specialisations of the two hemispheres are also revealed in tests which involve olfactory cues presented by social partners. The special properties of the left hemisphere are less well established in the chick. Evidence reviewed here suggests that it tends to respond to selected properties of a stimulus and to use them to assign it to a category; such assignment then allows an appropriate response. When exposed to an imprinting stimulus (visual or auditory) a chick begins by using right eye or ear (suggesting left hemisphere control), and then shifts to the left eye or ear (suggesting right hemisphere control), as exposure continues. The left hemisphere here is thus involved whilst behaviour is dominated by vigorous response to releasing stimuli presented by an object. Subsequent learning about the full detailed properties of the stimulus, which is crucial for individual recognition, may explain the shift to right hemisphere control after prolonged exposure to the social stimulus. There is a marked sex difference in choice tests: females tend to choose companions in tests where males choose strangers. It is possible that this difference is specifically caused by stronger motivation to sustain social contact in female chicks, for which there is extensive evidence. However, sex differences in response to change in familiar stimuli are also marked in tests which do not involve social partners. Finally, in both sexes there are two periods during development in which there age-dependent shifts in bias to use one or other hemisphere. These periods (days 3-5 and 8-11) coincide with two major changes in the social behaviour of chicks reared by a hen in a normal brood. It is argued that one function of these periods is to bring fully into play the hemisphere most appropriate to the type of response to, and learning about, social partners which is needed at particular points in development. Parallels are discussed between the involvement of lateralised processes in the recognition of social partners in chicks and humans.