So I did a bit of research on lefties. This may be of particular interest to those of you who are left-handed like me.
Right-handed people dominate the world, and it’s been that way since the Stone Age, as proved by looking at arm bones on ancient skeletons and by examining wear patterns in prehistoric tools. In Western countries, lefties only make up about 10% of the population.
Folks who favour different hands for different tasks (mixed handed) or who use both hands with equal skill (ambidextrous) are uncommon. Scientists have long known that handedness is partly shaped by genes. But in 2019 they identified differences in parts of the DNA of left and right-handers. The study, which also analysed brain scans of 9,000 British subjects, found that in lefties, the parts of the right and left sides of the brain that process language work better in tandem. Whether that makes lefthanders more fluent speakers is still to be investigated.
Foetuses start to move their arms around 9-10 weeks. By early in the second trimester, babies show a clear preference for sucking one thumb over the other. So handedness may well be hardwired before birth. However, most development experts say parents won’t likely get a good sense of their child’s dominant hand until age 2 or 3. Many kids continue to switch hands for different tasks during early childhood.
Studies show that non-right-handed students are much more likely to struggle in school and have dyslexia or ADHD symptoms. That may be particularly true for those who are mixed-handed or ambidextrous. Researchers suspect that having an inconsistent dominant hand may be a bigger problem than consistent left-handedness.
Research though does show the strong connection lefties have to the right side of the brain — which is linked to creativity and largely drives musical and spatial abilities. That may be why left-handers often hold more than their share of slots in creative professions. Mirror writing, where letters are reversed and written backwards, is almost always done with the left hand. Some studies show that left-handed children score higher on verbal reasoning or are more likely to be in gifted programs. But other research differs. What scientists have found though is that lefties tend to be better at divergent thinking, allowing them to think of more possible solutions to a problem than just the obvious. It's a skill that can certainly help with creative thinking.
Lefties appear to have an edge in sports like boxing or fencing, where they might surprise opponents used to facing off against mostly right-handers. But that may be due less to athletic talent than to practical advantages.
There’s a well-established link between left-handedness and mental conditions like schizophrenia, which can cause hallucinations and impaired thinking. A large recent study in the U.K. found a strong link between regions of the brain involved in handedness and how likely you are to have mood swings, restlessness, and neuroticism, a personality type marked by anxiety and fear that sometimes can veer into mental disorder.
Cultural biases against left-handers have existed throughout history. In the Middle Ages, the devil was believed to be a lefty. In Japan, China, and other Asian countries, the percentage of left-handers is much smaller than in the West. American teachers and doctors in the early 1900s believed that left-handers were more prone to mental disorders and pressured students to switch hands.
There are plenty of celebrity lefties: Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. Celebrity southpaws Bill Gates, Tom Cruise, Paul McCartney, Prince Charles, and his son, Prince William.
If you’re a righty and ever used your left hand to cut with scissors, you know it’s awkward. But there are a growing number of products for the kitchen, office, and elsewhere that are designed with lefties in mind.
Of lesser importance now, but if you've ever watched a lefty write, you'll notice they often smudge their writing as they move their hand over it from left to right – or they're forced to twist their hand awkwardly to avoid doing so. Thank God for computers.
But it seems calculating may be much easier for most lefties than writing as studies have shown left-handed people are often better at solving math problems. A recent study showed that left-handed students scored between 5-10% higher than their right-handed counterparts on complex math tests. Lefties are thought to be great problem solvers because they typically use more of the right side of the brain – which is associated with abstract thoughts and spatial reasoning – than righties do. I’m not sure that I tick that box – maths was never my strong point!
So you can see there are plusses and negatives for being a lefty. I’m just glad I live in a society where there are devices to help lefties and unlike some of the females in the maternal side of my family, I was not forced to write with a pen in my right hand or had my left hand tied behind my back!
Instead, we can now celebrate being a lefty! #lefthandersday and wish fellow lefties a Happy Left-Handers Awareness Day. http://www.lefthandersday.com