Squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus) and cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) made unimanual food reaches from either a horizontal, quadrupedal posture or a vertical, clinging posture. No population-level handedness occurred in either species. However, in both species, directional lateral preferences weakly expressed for reaching from the stable quadrupedal posture were intensified in the vertical cling posture. This phenomenon, which we designate as soft handedness, may have been an evolutionary precursor to population-level handedness. Right or left turning by the squirrel monkeys before reaching closely predicted use of the right or left hand. However, the magnitude of the association decreased in the more highly lateralized vertical cling condition. This result suggests that as lateral hand preference increases, hand use may become increasingly independent of constraints from prior behavioral and environmental influences.