Being Left-Handed, a Challenge or An Advantage?


Jan 19, 2015 by James

If you are left-handed, you may, quite understandably, be fed up with having to constantly adapt to a right-handed world. You may have had enough of microwave doors that open on the wrong side, difficulties using cameras, slot machines and a computer mouse. You may even have suffered some prejudice - historically, being left-handed has been viewed as suspect, with the word 'sinister' being derived from 'sinistra', Latin for 'of the left'.

However, research now suggests that being left-handed, while it may sometimes be inconvenient, can have several advantages.


Illustrious company

Around 10% of the UK population is either left-handed or ambidextrous, but nobody really knows why or how. Left-handedness is known to run in families - Prince William is left-handed, in common with other members of the royal family including his great-grandfather, George VI. It has recently been suggested that babies' hand dominance may be affected by mothers' ultrasound scans in pregnancy, however, ultrasound scans have also allowed scientists to conclude that handedness develops far earlier in life than was previously thought, with some ten week old foetuses appearing to favour one hand or the other in the womb.

One thing is known, however: left-handers are in illustrious company. Presidents Obama and Clinton of the USA are both left-handed, as are/were Buzz Aldrin, Hans Holbein, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Michelangelo, Alan Turing and Leonardo Da Vinci.


Different brains

Some believe that left-handers may, in some cases, achieve great things because their left-handedness either causes their brain to work, physiologically, in advantageous ways, and/or because having to adapt to a world geared to right-handers makes them more flexible and adaptable.

Between 75% and 90% of (predominantly right-handed) people use the left hand side of the brain to process language, leaving the right hand side free to handle matters of hand dominance. However, only 30% of left-handers carry out these processes in reverse (reversed brain lateralisation) or have no dominant side: in other words, most left-handers use their brains exactly as right-handers do, but have had to adapt and refine their brain processes to left-handedness.

There may be some physical evidence of this variation in 'brain wiring': many left-handed men have a thicker than usual corpus callosum, a thick band of tissue in the brain that may act to speed up thought processes. Perhaps that is why a survey of male graduates in the US found that left-handers tended to earn around 15% more than their peers.

It has also been observed that a disproportionately high number of left-handers do well in creative endeavours such as the arts, perhaps due to differences in brain structure or use, and that left-handers tend to be more shy than their right handed peers. However, scientists in the latter study have pointed out that experiencing shyness from an early age can encourage left-handers to adapt and develop coping strategies, that may consequently allow them to outperform their contemporaries later in life.

So if you are a rather shy left-hander who is fed up with smudging anything you write with a pen and having to swap your computer mouse around, never fear - there is plenty to suggest that being a 'leftie' will serve you very well, in time.