Brain Lateralisation and The Left-Handed Dilemma - a Psychological Viewpoint on handedness

Left Handed Brain Lateralisation

Animals exhibit equal paw preference, while13% of the human population display left–handedness, leaving the majority right-handed or ambidextrous[i]. A suggestion for this phenomenon is the development of elaborate language consisting of grammar and intricate components unique to humankind.[ii] Most humans lateralize language production in the brain’s left hemisphere[iii], which may explain why most people are consequently right-handed.

Genetics provide a more convincing explanation. When both parents are left-handed, chances of a left-handed child is 26%[iv]; in families like the British Royal Family left-handedness is hereditary prejudiced.[v] In fact scientist have discovered the LRRTM1 gene is likely responsible for traits such as left-handedness[vi].

Another reason cites birth stresses where mothers aged over 40 have a 128% chances of a left-handed baby[vii]. Also, high levels of prenatal testosterone increase the odds of a left-handed baby[viii]. Alternatively, societal culture could have converted multitudes of born left-handers into right-handers, when the damnation of left-handers prompted parents to force-change their child’s handedness through imitation in order to marry them off and save embarrassment[ix].

Left-handers face many challenges in this right-handed world. Everyday examples include how lecture tables in schools force left-handers into unnatural postures, injury resulting when they incorrectly grip and apply kitchen appliances, especially scissors, peelers, can-openers…In public areas like bathrooms and train stations, left-handers inadvertently accidentally blast tapwater when they twist taps the wrong direction, and blunder when they tap their access cards but walk through the wrong gate. Left-handed sportsmen require separate coaching, and musicians suffer when conventions require them to learn their instruments with their weaker right hand playing a more principal role.

Studies show left-handers increasingly prone to mental illness such as schizophrenia, insomnia, depression, autism among many other pathological mental illnesses and ailments.[x] A British study revealed left-handers’ average lifespan 9 years shorter than their right-handed counterparts[xi]. In fact, historically (though less prevalent today) left-handers were stigmatized in various religions such as Islam and Christianity; considered to be of the devil and not on the ‘right’ side of God(where Jesus Christ and His favoured would sit)[xii]. In many European languages, terms referring to the ‘left’ being clumsy, crooked, ill-omened have been coined[xiii], stereotyping the left-hander as the lacking minority.

Applying the survival of the fittest theory[xiv] to the above logically suggests the extinction of the inferior left-hander through natural selection. Instead, we observe their prevalence in society; during the ice age 23% of handprints discovered were the right hand made by left-handers[xv], today despite medical advancement they still form a substantial minority. Perhaps the Left-handers’ secret to survival lies in their outstanding abilities in combat sports[xvi], perfect pitch abilities[xvii], top-notch IQ scores(Mc Manus)[xviii] and intrinsic artistic abilities, aptly described by William Hopkins(Emory University's Yerkes National Primate Research Center)-"The anomaly is left-handed people make up the extremely gifted and the extremely compromised…The rest of us make up the middle ground."

I would not change my child’s handedness as I believe there is no right or wrong dominant hand. Left-handed children already begin to show remarkable artistic talent and coming from a family where left-handers form the majority, I attest the beauty of being left-handed far outweighs the costs. Aside from the occasional struggle to mirror my right-handed mother and teachers’ demonstrations, I daresay I survive perfectly well doing what’s natural. Besides, left-handers are not all that handicapped once they train themselves to work right-handedly. For children, their first few years of development are crucial. Proper guidance and explanation help them overcome the differences, confusion and frustration when they discover they are the odd one in class, even embracing their handedness as there are many things left-handers can boast about.


[i] M. K. Holder. "Do Scientists Understand Why There are So Many More Right-Handers Than Left-Handers? Do Other Primates Show a Similar Tendency to Favor One Hand Over the Other?" Scientific American.Com. 18 Aug. 1997. 4 Oct. 2007 <http://www.sciam.com/askexpert_question.cfm?articleID=0005E039-6F37-1C72-9EB7809EC588F2D7>.

[ii] Freeman, Alex. "Left V Right, Assymmetrical Animals." BBC Wildlife May 2004. 4 Oct. 2007 <http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/animals/features/341feature1.shtml>.

[iii] H. K. Holder. "Handedness and Brain Lateralization." 1995. Indiana University. 4 Oct. 2007 <http://www.indiana.edu/~primate/brain.html>.

[iv] "Left-Handedness: Does It Mean Anything?" Hypnotic World Psychology. 22 Sept. 2007. 25 Sept. 2007 <http://psychology.hypnoticworld.com/influence_personality/handedness.php>.

[v] "Science & Nature - Sex ID - Handedness." BBC.Co.UK. 3 Oct. 2007 <http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/sex/articles/handedness.shtml>

[vi] Oxford University. "Gene for Left-Handedness Identified." Science Daily (2007). 1 Oct. 2007 <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070805141533.htm>

[vii] "Science: Older Mothers Have More Left-Handed Babies." New Scientist 1726 (1990). 4 Oct. 2007 <http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg12717262.800.html>.

[viii] "Geschwind-Galaburda Hypothesis." Wikipedia. 15 Aug. 2007. 4 Oct. 2007 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geschwind-Galaburda_Hypothesis>.

[ix] "Handedness." Wikipedia. 2 Oct. 2007. 5 Oct. 2007 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handedness>.

[x] Sarah Mogin. "The Oppression of Lefties." The Tartan Online (2006). 4 Oct. 2007 <http://www.thetartan.org/2006/2/27/pillbox/lefthand>

[xi] Simon Mays, and James Steele . New Findings on the Findings of Left-and-Right-Handedness in Medieaval Britain. Dept of Archaeology, University of Southampton and Ancient Monuments Lab, English Heritage. United Kingdom, 1995. 4 Oct. 2007 <http://web.archive.org/web/20021208040702/http://www.soton.ac.uk/~tjms/handed.html>.

[xii] "Left Handed Myths and Misunderstandings." Anything Left-Handed. 2000. 4 Oct. 2007 <http://www.anythingleft-handed.co.uk/lefty_myths.html>.

[xiii] Keith Milsom. "The Left Handers Newsletter – Nicknames." The Left-Handed Club Newsletter. 4 Oct. 2007. 4 Oct. 2007 <www.anythingleft-handed.co.uk>.

[xiv] Onion, Amanda. "The Left-Handed Advantage." ABC News. 17 Feb. 2005. 4 Oct. 2007 <http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=498707&page=1>.

[xv] Dr David Whitehouse. Left-Handedness Common in Ice Age. 2004. 4 Oct. 2007 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3485967.stm>.

[xvi] Dr. Senol Dane. Is Left-Handedness a Neurological Advantage in Sportive Activities? Ataturk University, Turkey. 4 Oct. 2007 <http://coachesinfo.com/category/team_handball/258/>.

[xvii] Diana Deutsch. Pitch Memory: an Advantage for the Left-Handed. La Jolla: University of California, San Diego. 4 Oct. 2007 <http://www.philomel.com/pdf/Science-1978_199_559-560.pdf>.

[xviii] Onion, Amanda. "The Left-Handed Advantage." ABC News. 17 Feb. 2005. 4 Oct. 2007 <http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=498707&page=3>.

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Comments 17 comments

melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA

Animals also show right-handed and left-handed tendecies just as human do. There are results from many experiements showing these tendencies in animals.


Pente profile image

Pente 5 years ago from Planet Earth

I am left handed. No problems with coordination, although I am autistic. Being left handed did seem to confer an advantage in fighting bare handed when I was a kid. My first punch was rarely blocked. I remember reading somewhere that left handed fighters were often desired in history as the best swordsmen. Thank you for the interesting article.


Charlotte B Plum profile image

Charlotte B Plum 5 years ago Author

Yeah you are right - apparently it is because they always practiced with right handers, and so that gave them an edge when fighting with the rest (majority of whom were right handers.

Thanks for dropping by!


Viranne 5 years ago

Im left handed, and i love being one. I feel special and blessed


Charlotte B Plum profile image

Charlotte B Plum 5 years ago Author

Hey Viranne, I too feel so blessed and special to be a left hander! It can make life rather hilarious at times!


Jeanastra 5 years ago

I was raised by right handed parents and all of my (5) siblings are righties. As the only leftie, I learned to do many things with my right hand. I write and use a fork with my left but I throw, golf (mini golf - hahaha), bat, bowl & uses scissors with my right hand. When applying make-up or blow-drying, I switch from side to side and when my younger brother was little, I would secretly put his spoon in his left hand when my mother wasn't looking. He is now almost completely ambidextrous! My older siblings went to parochial school and the nuns used to force the lefties to use their right hand (this was the late 60's to early 70's). Lastly, I went to a college that was primarily for communications & theatre and the vast majority of students were left handed. Great hub. VOTED UP!


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 5 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

Interesting hub on left handedness Charlotte. I am a right hander, but burned my right hand when I was a small child. By the time the bandages were off, I could already perform most tasks with my left hand, so children can adapt to using either hand if required.


Charlotte B Plum profile image

Charlotte B Plum 5 years ago Author

Hey CMHypno -

thank you for dropping by! I do agree that it is amazing how dynamic children can be when they first start out. My dad too used to be punished whenever he used his left hand, so he is quite the ambidextrous person too. I have things like using a scissors that I prefer to use my right-hand for, other than that I am quite the left-hander.

Hey Jeanastra,

thank you for dropping by! I think I must have replied to your comment in my head without typing it out. I loved reading your story, especially of how you put the spoon in you bro's left hand! how funny! As a left-hander, I too have observed how so many of the creative souls are left-handers - and it does feel at home to be among them, doesn't it? I can still remember being the only left-hander in class, and the teachers had to single me out just to teach me how to throw a javelin or discus during physical education classes!


sparkster profile image

sparkster 5 years ago from United Kingdom

Very interesting hub. Both my parents are right-handed, yet I am left handed at writing and right-handed at everything else (like playing guitar, snooker, etc).


Joanna Meier 5 years ago

I was born left handed and my parents told my first grade teacher to change me so she did....with a vengeance! She stalked me, ruler in hand, and whacked me everytime she caught me using my left hand. To this day, I can see her clearly, and I am 63!! Since I was forced to change, I use both hands...write right handed, use my right hand for macro functions, but my left is used for micro functions like crocheting. 2 of my 3 children are left handed. The older stuttered as a child and still has an operational speech problem; when starting a sentence, he backs up and repeats the first 2 or 3 words, sometimes more than once. The younger had a developmental speech delay. When she started school she mad to be in speech therapy for 2 years. She now seems fine as to language proficiency. I wonder, regarding myself, whether being forcibly switched to ambidextry will leave me more or less at risk of stroke-related speech dysfunction, and whether switch-handedness makes me more or less likely to have a stroke at all. I also wonder if being left handed is why my son is an adult Asperger's Syndrom (very mild) and if being left handed is why my daughter has bipolar disorder. I think being forced to switch hands has also forced development of the analytical part of my brain, making me more balanced. I have not lost the artistic side; I see patterns in my head and so create my own crochet work. I also write poetry.


Charlotte B Plum profile image

Charlotte B Plum 5 years ago Author

Wow Joanna, you have such an interesting story. Your childhood experience is very similar to my dad's, where he was forced to change as a child, and now he can use both hands, although his left is still more dominant.

That's interesting, the handedness link and other disorders. I do hear of other stories like yours once in a while.

Yeah left-handers are creative! And I can attest to that. =) Thank you so much for dropping by and reading this hub!


AnnaStephens 5 years ago

Charlotte, I'm a leftie too and I found it really amusing that you broke us down to build us up - mental illness, dying young etc etc, but hey, the fun we have before insanity and death stop us, right?!

You mentioned the statistics for left-handed parents having left-handed kids increases, but both my parents are right-handed and both myself and my sister are left-handed. And they've promised we're not adopted!! I'd be curious to see those statistics.

Very interesting hub.

Anna


Charlotte B Plum profile image

Charlotte B Plum 5 years ago Author

Hey Anna,

How interesting - I know of families that are all lefties except one parent, although I too would be interested to know if there have been studies that have studied the genetic component of handedness.

I love being a left-handed, although sometimes I draw unwanted attention to myself - like when I accidentally tap the wrong sides of the subway barrier, or when people comment on how odd I hold my pen.

Thank you for dropping by Anna!


oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

Hi Charlotte, this was a very interesting read! I am left handed, as is my sister. I have an Aunt that is also left handed. It was great to read more about it in your hub and the pros and cons and how it plays out in history even ancient times. Thanks for sharing. :)


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

Hi Charlotte, a high percentage of my friends in life, including favorite relatives, have been left-handed. I find them charming and complement my right-handed world immensely. I am surprised that you don't just buy a pair of left handed scissors--I am pausing here to google if they exist--whew!, they do.

Thank you for an interesting read and here is a fun cartoon in the theme. =:)

http://www.lefthandersday.com/images/billy.gif


Steph 4 years ago

Allthe negative traits that are more common with lefties - the clumsiness, increased car accidents, mental health problems etc - one does wonder if this is more a RESULT of living in a right handed world, as opposed to just being inferior in those areas.


Callum Mclaughlin profile image

Callum Mclaughlin 4 years ago

i am left handed, 14 years old and apparently told i have a gift for a art by a lot of people, i wet on this because am curious, why is it odd when people ask me what hand i write with but i only write with my left hand, i punch, cut with scissors , cut with knifes with my right hand as i find it hard to co-ordinate with my left. am i different from other left handers? as i only write , draw, paint with my left hand and do everything else with my right? and id like to note, i think the whole left hand is the devil thingy nonsence. its just a typical idea . i used to alter serve in church, i believe in god but don't go to church as i don't like sitting in the front row. i admit i lack confidence in my self but feel like a king when am with a pencil, i hate fast rides, needles and am always paranoid. would that change if i were right handed?

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