What do Barack Obama, Steve McQueen and Joan of Arc all have in common… they are (or in some cases, were) left-handed.
If Springfield was a real state in America, some of the most iconic figures would be shopping at Ned Flanders’ Leftorium.
As someone who’s been left-handed since birth, it warms my heart how I’m in great company among the likes of; Marie Curie, Bill Gates, Matt Groening and Oprah Winfrey – even Winston Churchill, a staunch symbol in the archaic idea of British patriotism, was a lefty.
According to the Huffington Post 10 per cent of the world’s population is left-handed and only one per cent are ambidextrous, so it makes sense, as a minority, left handers tend to stand head and shoulders above the right-handed majority.
However, despite being the most unique beings, us left-handers are a forgotten minority – we live in a world where ‘right is might’ and everyday is a dexterous challenge from simple tasks, like using cutlery or scissors, to solving algebra problems with a calculator – it just turns into a bad episode of Takeshi’s Castle – this based on the simple fact most hand-held utensils are made for the right-handed.
I remember way back when, in secondary school, I sat next to someone who hated my guts because my left elbow – through not fault of my own – would hit his right elbow, causing him to scribble in his work book.
There were so many occasions where he’d had enough and lambaste me for not being right-handed like the rest of the class.
However I wasn’t peeved, nor did I feel ostracised by his annoyance – if anything, I basked in it and embraced the perceived oddity of being left-handed.
It made me feel like I wasn’t another robot shipped off the assembly line of which we call life – you can probably compare this feeling to someone born on the 29th February.
One of the benefits of being left-handed was when I played basketball on the school courts – people would hate having to guard me as they found it hard to predict my movements with the ball – it was probably the only thing I had going for me on the courts!
However despite perceived notions left-handers may be more intelligent and creative, the actual truth is quite sobering and according to Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, right-handed people have slightly higher IQ scores compared to their left-handed counterparts.
Quite a bitter pill to swallow but after three sets of meta-analyses, which included data on 20,442 individuals the study found a ‘negligible difference’ in favor of right-handers.
However it’s pointed out how the correlation between intelligence and what hand you use is one which is still open for debate.
The main body of the study shows no actual difference in IQ scores between left and right-handers – differences shown in the collected meta data showed a marginal difference in favour of right-handed people.
Conclusive data from the study found ‘intelligence differences between handedness groups in the general population are negligible’.
Nicholas Holmes, who runs The Hand Lab at the University of Nottingham, explained to UNILAD:
There are many problems with measures of IQ (and of handedness), but by and large, most people would say ‘intelligent’ people are also ‘talented’ people, and ‘IQ’ is well-correlated with these constructs.
So what about the widely popular theory about the different parts of your brain?
While unfounded and unproven, there are those who think the left side of your brain is where you access your artists/creative side, while the right is your more forward thinking, academic side.
Well Holmes says it’s all nonsense and continued:
On the issue of left brain/right brain thinking, this is simply not a scientific issue, but rather something the pseudo-scientific pseudo-psychological marketing industry have seized upon over the years, in order, I believe, to sell things to people.
There is simply no scientific truth in it.
There are indeed different things done by similar areas on the left and right sides of the brain, but unless you literally split the brain into two halves with a scalpel, then we all think and behave using both sides of our brain, all the time.
So for Holmes, there’s no discernible difference between left and right-handers, just a lack of products made for those who operate on a left-handed ability.
However his conclusion is counteracted by Chris McManus af the University College London (UCL).
In his book Right-Hand, Left-Hand, McManus makes the case how historically, left-handers as a group have an above-average quota of high achievers.
Furthermore, McManus says their brains are wired differently to that of a right-handed person, which increases their range of skills and attributes.
Studies in the UK, US and Australia have revealed left-handed people differ from right-handers by only one IQ point, which is not noteworthy … Left-handers’ brains are structured differently from right-handers’ in ways that can allow them to process language, spatial relations and emotions in more diverse and potentially creative ways.
Also, a slightly larger number of left-handers compared to right-handers are especially gifted in music and math. A study of musicians in professional orchestras found a significantly greater proportion of talented left-handers, even among those who played instruments seemingly designed for right-handers, such as violins.
Similarly, studies of adolescents who took tests to assess mathematical giftedness found many more left-handers in the population.
This isn’t to say society hasn’t produced gifted right-handers – Holmes points out to us:
… it’s only one side of the story… How about all the left-handed people who did *not* become famous and are not talented?
He does makes a valid point, however you could argue because the world is ‘run’ by the overall right, the achievements of those who are left-handed are much more significant due to their overall minority.