Do Left-Handed People Think Differently?

Many people take being right-handed for granted. After all, most people worldwide are right-handed. As a result, few right-handed people take the time to think about the lefties among them, for whom everyday life in a right-handed world can sometimes be a struggle (or worse, find some people are prejudice against them because they are left-handed).

It is interesting to note that handedness is not common in the animal kingdom. Typically, animals use both paws or hands interchangeably. Although some left-handedness and right-handedness has been found in animals, particularly in cats and some primates, ‘handedness’ is not pronounced in animals. Handedness appears to be a strongly unique to humans. As to why humans developed handedness, theories abound. Some postulate that men needed to be right-handed so they could hold their shield to their chest (to protect their heart) with their left hand. Women, it is theorized, needed their left hand to hold infants close to their heart to comfort them. Regardless of how or why handedness developed among humans, studies show that the thinking of left and right-handed people differs in some fundamental ways.

Generally speaking, the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, and vice-versa. Therefore, the right side of the brain controls the left hand. This has some interesting implications.

The right brain is known as the seat of one’s creativity, musical abilities and spatial reasoning. In contrast, the left brain is where the ability to reason and do math resides. The left brain tends to be where speech, logic and pattern recognition reside. Right-handed people tend to be skilled in linear reasoning and math. Conversely, left-handed people tend to excel in geometry, architecture, as well a creative endeavors such as art and music.

Most would agree that, "it’s a right-handed persons world" where things tend to be dominated by logic, science, where students are taught that the 3-Rs are the most important things to learn: Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (and not art, music and metaphysics). Yet, interestingly, a disproportionate number of U.S. Presidents, including Barack Obama and Clinton have been left-handed. President Reagan is rumored to have been left handed and forced to switch to being right-handed by his parents.

Left-handed people (unlike right-handed people), do not fall along the standard Gaussian distribution of intelligence. Whereas right-handed people fall along the standard "bell-curve" for intelligence (i.e., few are below-average, most are average, and few are above-average), left-handed people do not. The intelligence chart for left-handed people tends to be and inverse of the bell curve where lefties are more likely to be of either below-average or above-average intelligence, with fewer of them falling within the average range. There is a lot of speculation as to why this phenomena occurs.

Some speculate that left-handed people learn differently; do not necessarily value what right-handed people consider ‘smart’; and tend to be independent, which ends up meaning lefties do not test well for what is considered ‘standard intelligence’. As for the lefties who do exhibit above-average intelligence (and a greater percentage of lefties are above average intelligence compared to righties) it could be that left-handed individuals have to work much harder to fit into the right-handed world. This results in lefties having not only their own right-brained perspective of the world, but also an understanding of the left-brained perspective. Dare we call it a ‘full brain perspective’?

Left-handed people are more likely to suffer from spatial learning difficulties. Many left-handed people struggle to learn the difference between their left and right hand as children. Some experience difficulty in learning to tell time from the position of the hands on a clock. Left-handed people may also be plagued with trouble in reading maps and developing a sense of direction throughout their lives. Left-handed people are often considered to be more accident-prone than their right-handed counterparts, yet this is likely because left-handed people are trying to negotiate living in a world designed for right-handed people.

Being right-handed in a right-handed world is an advantage. Yet, being left-handed can give a person a competitive edge. In baseball, left-handed pitchers are always in demand since their pitching style causes right-handed batters problems. Left-handed boxers are known as some of the most formidable opponents, again, because their style fouls up right-handers. Further, left-handed people in general have a unique and creative way of looking at things that allows them to survive (and thrive) in a predominantly right-handed world.

So, do left-handed people think differently? Perhaps many do. What we do know is that left-handed people definitely experience the world differently than right-handed people.

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