Celebrating lefties in a right-handed world

Every year, August 13th is celebrated as International Left Handers Day in honour of all left-handed people. Now in its 44th year, the day is observed to raise awareness of the everyday issues that lefties face in a world dominated by right-handers. Statistics show that roughly 90 per cent of people worldwide are right-handed, which means a tenth of the population has been seemingly “left out” throughout history.

Sadly, cultural biases against left-handers have existed throughout history. In fact, the formal term for left-handedness, Sinistrality, is based on the Latin word “sinistra,” meaning “on the left.” As time wore on, left-handedness came to be associated with weakness and was thought to be an abnormality. In fact, left-handers were rarer in the years past, perhaps because of the once-common efforts to force youngsters to use their right hand when learning to write or work. Thankfully, this trend is on the decline and there is a much greater acceptance of those who predominantly use their left-hand. However, there is still much to be done for left-handed people in a world that seems designed for right-handers alone.

Acknowledging this fact, Fazil Al Jabri says, “As a left-handed person I have had to adapt to the right-handed world; but I’m certain that most right-handed people would be uncomfortable if they were to use their left hand to write or work. One simple example is the use of the computer mouse. The mouse is kept on the left of my computer for convenience, though I can manage just as well with my right hand as well. However, if any of my right-handed colleagues had to use the mouse at my desk, they would find it tedious and difficult and often give up in frustration.”

While there are many theories on what determines which hand you write with, most experts believe that the pattern is quite random. What scientists do seem to agree on however, is that it is genetic to some extent. As early as the second-trimester, babies seem to show a clear preference for sucking one thumb over the other, indicating that handedness is likely hardwired before birth. Interestingly, identical twins are more likely to have the same hand dominant than fraternal twins and siblings.

Scientists have identified some subtle differences in the way left-handed people think. According to a report published in the American Journal of Psychology, left-handed people appear to be better at divergent thinking. Evidence seems to suggest that lefties may be better at solving complex problems, perhaps because of their need to adapt to situations designed for right-handers. As they are often forced to use both hands, left handers are able to naturally develop greater connectivity between the left and right brain hemispheres. This apparently makes them better at 3D perception, thought processing and multi-tasking – traits that make them especially good sportsmen. According to popular lore tennis champion Rafael Nadal switched to being a left-handed player after his coach and mentor Toni Nadal apparently told him that it would give him a bigger advantage on court.

Left-handed people also seem to be drawn to careers in the arts, music and culture fields. Studies have revealed that lefties have high creativity, imagination and intuition. They’re also better at rhythm and visualization. Interestingly, studies conducted by researchers based in New York found that there were more left-handed people with an IQ over 140 than right-handed people. It is no surprise then, that according to NASA, more than 20% of Apollo astronauts were lefties.

There is clearly no reason for those who predominantly use their left hand to feel “left out.” There is so much to celebrate. As Kiara Mendonza from Qurum says, I knew I was special and now the scientists are proving why!”

*Names changed on request