The Left Handed Advantage

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August 13 marks the annual international left-handers day. Left-handers day was established more than 20 years ago, in 1992. About 10-15% of the worldwide population is left-handed, and most of us who are left-handed have a strong preference for using our left hand to write and for most skill-oriented, intricate tasks.

If you ever need to see a neurologist for any reason, one of the first questions a neurologist will ask you is whether you are right handed or left handed.

Because of the way our brains are wired, the medical evaluation of neurological conditions is largely guided by whether you are right handed or left handed.

Is There a Left-Handed Advantage?

It is known that the majority of recent United States presidents, including George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, are left handed. Other high achieving left handers include Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates, and it is reported that Marie Curie and Leonardo da Vinci were left handed as well. There has been a lot of speculation over whether there is a 'left-hand advantage.'

Why are Some People Left-handed?

Which hand you prefer to use is based on which side of your brain is your dominant side. Your speech center is located in the dominant side of your brain, which is opposite the hand you use. Incidentally, as a child's speech begins to develop, around the age of 1 1/2-2 years old, parents begin to notice that the child demonstrates a strong preference for the left hand or right hand.

Why Does it Matter Which Side of Your Brain is Dominant?

The dominant side of your brain is the side opposite your preferred hand. So, if you are left handed, then the right side of your brain is your dominant side. Some of the most important functions of the brain are situated almost exclusively on only the dominant or the non-dominant side of the brain.

The dominant side of your brain controls language and analytical abilities, such as math skills. The non-dominant side of your brain controls your spatial perception, your ability to appreciate 3 dimensional concepts, and your artistic creativity.

The Science of the Left-handed Advantage

Overall, there are some unexpected benefits to being left-handed, including an advantage when it comes to competitive team sports. An international research study out of Canada and Germany identified an interesting upshot of left-handedness in sports. The study authors found that right handed and left handed athletes are slower to anticipate and respond to left handed players’ moves than they are to right-handed players’ moves.

This is largely due to the fact that athletes primarily practice against right handed opponents, and since athletes are are better prepared to defend against right handed players, they may be caught off guard by left handed players' moves.

Education is another area where left handed people seem to have an upper hand.

A population-based analyses from the University of Sheffield shows that left-handed people are more likely to attain higher educational levels, achieve better incomes and hold more prominent positions in the work setting.

Left Brain/Right Brain

If you are described as right brained that usually means that you are gifted when it comes to spatial functions such as art and creativity. If you are described as left brained, that usually means you have strong language comprehension, vocabulary and math skills.

Of course, everything is the opposite if you are left-handed! And, some scientists speculate that left handed people are more evenly 'right brained' and 'left brained,' than right handed people, resulting in a connection between the analytical and the creative aspects of thinking and problem solving.

The Left Handed Advantage

Is there a left handed advantage? And if there is a left-handed advantage, what is the explanation? It may have to do with the fact that left-handed people are forced to make some unnatural physical adjustments early in life, and thus, subconsciously learn to adapt to imperfect situations.

It is possible that the atypical allocation and distribution of language and spatial abilities between the two hemispheres of the brain in left handed people might force different levels of communication than usual between the two hemispheres, resulting in a left handed advantage.

Whatever the explanation, being left handed is worthy of a special day once a year.


Skilled players' and novices' difficulty anticipating left- vs. right-handed opponents' action intentions varies across different points in time., Loffing F, Hagemann N, Schorer J, Baker J, Human Movement, Science, April 2015

Socio-economic status and handedness in two large cohorts of French adults, Faurie C, Bonenfant S, Goldberg M, Hercberg S, Zins M, Raymond M, British Journal of Psychology, November 2008

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