World Left Handers Day

Do you know that just 10 to 12 percent of the world’s population use their left hand as their dominant hand? But this 10% include some of the most influential people on this planet. Being a lefty is thought to be genetic, but I am not too sure about this. GG is left handed and in mine and S’s extended families, we don’t have anyone who is the same, but I wonder if this is because she is a twin?

The way the brain works is incredibly complex, but here’s a simplified explanation which will give some understanding of where our left-hand dominance comes from. The brain is cross-wired so the left hemisphere controls the right handed side of the body and vice-versa and hand dominance is connected with brain dominance on the opposite side, which is why we can safely say that only left-handers are in their right minds!

This brain dominance makes left-handers more likely than right handers to be creative and visual thinkers, which is supported by a higher percentages of left-handers than normal in certain jobs and professions like music and the arts, media in general. Left-handers are also generally better at 3-dimensional perception and thinking, leading to more left-handed architects than normal. Left-handers are also usually pretty good at most ball sports and things involving hand-to-eye co-ordination.

So why are there so few left-handers in the world? In 2012, researchers at Northwestern University developed a mathematical model to show that the percentage of left-handed people was a result of human evolution, specifically, a balance of cooperation and competition. In other words, they thought that, though the basis for right- or left-handedness may be genetic, there could be a social factor that explains why the ratio is so high. The more social the animal, where cooperation is highly valued, the more the general population will trend toward one side, according to Daniel Abrams, an assistant professor at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science who helped develop the model. The most important factor for an efficient society is a high degree of cooperation which in humans, has resulted in a right-handed majority. In other words, we may have, for some reason, evolved to favor right-handedness, so anyone deviating from this may have been conditioned to use that hand primarily despite their genetic predisposition.

Stone Age implements discovered seem equally divided between left and right and studies of cave drawings have indicated a preference for the left hand. When tools became more sophisticated, a clear hand preference emerged. The right hand preference may have originated in sun worship. In the Northern hemisphere you have to face south to follow the sun and move from left to right until the suns sets in the west. This gave moving to the right and the right hand side a great significance. Another theory says that as the heart is on the left hand side, a shield would have to be in the left hand to defend it and any weapon therefore had to be held in the right, which became the dominant hand. Recent theories have included one that right-handedness is the normality and left-handedness is a deficiency which results from a traumatic birth!  The historical bias against left-handers is best reflected by the English word ‘sinister’, synonymous with evil or menacing; its Latin root ‘sinestra’ meaning ‘on the left’.

There are many superstitions about left handed people. In certain societies, they may be considered unlucky or even malicious by the right-handed majority. Many languages still contain references to left-handedness to convey awkwardness, dishonesty, stupidity, or other undesirable qualities. In many societies, left-handed people were historically, and in some cases still are forced as children to use their right hands for tasks which they would naturally perform with the left, such as eating or writing. In the late 20th century, left-handedness became less stigmatized, and in many countries, particularly the Western world, left-handed children were no longer forced to switch to their right hand anymore. Actually when we first found out that GG favoured her left hand, there was a lot of resistance within the extended family asking me to force her to use her right hand to eat and write. But, for reasons that I don’t really understand, I refused to do that and told everyone who asked me that if she was born favouring a certain hand, then I will not force her to disregard it for her non-dominant hand. And so today her left hand is her dominant hand and she is proud of this, though there have been many challenges, especially when using writing and other implements not designed for left handed people.

To celebrate the uniqueness of left-handed people and raise awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of being left-handed, the International Left Handers Day is observed annually on August. The day was first observed in 1976 by Dean R. Campbell, founder of Lefthanders International, Inc and is oberserved to raise awareness about the everyday issues that lefties face as they live in a world designed for the righties.

So to honur this day and my GG, here are some fun facts about these unique individuals:

  • Left-handers tend to perform well in tennis, baseball, swimming and fencing.
  • Most left-handers draw characters facing to the right.
  • In sets of twins, there is a high chance the at least one of them will be left-handed.
  • Stuttering and dyslexia occur more often in left-handers, particularly if they are forced to change their writing hand as a child.
  • Left-handers adjust more readily to seeing underwater.
  • Left-handers usually reach puberty 4 to 5 months after right-handers
  • 4 of the 5 original designers of the Macintosh computer were left-handed
  • 1 in 4 Apollo astronauts were left-handed, 250% more than the normal level.
  • Left-handed people are more intelligent and creative thinkers with a greater degree of mental flexibility than the rest.
  • Deemed to be more skilled in terms of language, left-handers are also considered to be better leaders.
  • In Britain in the Middle Ages, lefties were associated with the devil and often accused of the crime of witchcraft, meaning they would get burned at the stake.

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