Tuesday, 13 August 2013


“Left-handers are wired into the artistic half of the brain, which makes them imaginative, creative, surprising, ambiguous, exasperating, stubborn, emotional, witty, obsessive, infuriating, delightful, original, but never, never, dull.” - James T deKay & Sandy Huffaker from “The World’s Greatest Left-Handers: Why Left-Handers are Just Plain Better than Everybody Else”

August 13 is International Left-Handers’ Day. It is on this day that left-handers everywhere can celebrate their sinistrality and increase public awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of being left-handed. This event is now celebrated worldwide, with activities such as left-vs-right sports matches, left-handed tea parties, pubs using left-handed corkscrews where patrons drink and play pub games with the left hand only, and “Lefty Zones” where left-handers’ creativity, adaptability and sporting prowess are celebrated, whilst right-handers are encouraged to try out everyday left-handed objects to see just how awkward it can feel using the wrong equipment! On the other hand (ahem!) Sinistrophobia is the fear of left-handedness or things on the left side and it is surprising that there is still some of this prejudice around.

Only about 10% of the population is left-handed. During the 1600’s people, thought left-handers were witches and warlocks. International Left Hander’s Day was first celebrated on August 13, 1976. It was started by Left-handers’ International. It is believed that all polar bears are left-handed. While many people are left-handed, very few are 100% left-handed. For example, many left-handers’ golf and bat right-handed (ambidextrous refers to being able to use both hands more less equally). Conversely, most of right handed are 100% right-handed. Lefties are also called “southpaws”. This term was coined in baseball to describe a left-handed pitcher.

Left- and right-handed people have different brain structures, particularly in relation to language processing. Research shows that poor infant health increases the likelihood of a child being left-handed. Compared to righties, lefties score lower on measures of cognitive skill and, contrary to popular belief, are not over-represented at the high end of the distribution. Lefties have more emotional and behavioural problems, have more learning disabilities such as dyslexia. Left-handed individuals complete less schooling, and work in less cognitively intensive occupations. Differences between left- and right-handed siblings show similar trends. Most strikingly, lefties have six percent lower annual earnings than righties, a gap that can largely be explained by these differences in cognitive skill, disabilities, schooling and occupational choice. Those likely be left-handed due to genetics show smaller or no deficits relative to righties, suggesting the importance of environmental shocks as the source of disadvantage.

To balance these ideas it is important to realise that there are a multitude of famous and very accomplished people in history who were left-handed. This particular very long list compiled at the University of Indiana is a case in point.

Thankfully we are more enlightened about left-handedness nowadays and we do not force left-handers to use their hand. Parents want what is best for their children, teachers strive to maximise all individuals’ potential to learn, employers strive to maximise their profit, and manufacturers want their products to sell. The hope is for parents, educators, employers, and manufacturers to understand that the best way to achieve their goals is by listening to left-handers and ambidextrals. By making the world a little more left-hand friendly, we are aiding everyone achieve their true potential whether they are right- or left-handed.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating stuff! My oldest son is left-handed, my third son is ambidextrous, my grandson is left handed ... the first lefties in our family tree. All brilliant of course ...........