Bryanna McDermtt | Student Columnist
Never being able to use a pen because the words get smeared while writing, having to buy a special guitar just to learn to play and needing to switch the settings on a computer to use a mouse properly; these are all challenges left-handed people face on a day-to-day basis.
Left-handers have encountered a significant amount of adversity throughout history. There was even a point when left handedness was considered to be a sin because it is mentioned in The Bible that Satan himself was left-handed. Due to this belief, many lefties were forced to switch their handedness to the right for the sake of religion. With such a negative history and so many daily challenges, are there any benefits to being a part of that 10 percent of the population who share this unusual characteristic?
Scientists still haven’t figured out just what causes a person to be born favoring the left hand; however, they have found many common characteristics among lefties. One of the most stereotypical findings was that a left-handed person tends to be more creative than a righty.
The American Journal of Psychology published a study by the Left-Handers’ Club which found that lefties are better at divergent thinking methods of idea generation that explore many possible solutions. They surveyed over 2,000 participants with a variance between left and right handedness also including ambidextrous people and found that lefties are drawn to careers in the arts, music, sports, and informational technological fields. Leonardo da Vinci and Beethoven were both lefties after all.
This spark of creativity among lefties is most likely due to the fact that they can more easily access both sides of their brain than right-handed people. An Australian study concluded that left-handed people access both hemispheres of their brain regularly, while righties tend to stick to the more dominant left hemisphere. Being able to access both hemispheres allows for that person to access the part of the brain which controls creativity more frequently and also makes them capable of multi-tasking more effectively.
The right hemisphere of the brain also controls anger which is connected to competitiveness; however, it’s not this natural brain chemical that gives lefties an upper hand in sports—it’s actually the element of surprise. In a world dominated by right-handed people, a sport which pins a left-hander against a right-hander is going to be lopsided. A lefty practices against righties all the time, but a righty only sees a lefty on a few occasions. Righties aren’t expecting a left hook in boxing and aren’t fully comfortable with a curveball coming from the left side of the mound, giving the lefty an advantage over their competitor.
Lefties come face-to-face with a multitude of adversities from the time they are very young. Everything in the world is made to make a right-hander comfortable, so a left-handed person learns to adjust to the surroundings. In school, they adapt to writing on desks meant to support the right arm and later in life they must learn to play sports or instruments the left-handed way by a right-handed teacher. These adversities make left-handers more likely to survive and thrive in society.
Lynn Wright, a behavioral psychologist at the University of Abertay in Dundee, United Kingdom, composed a study on how a life of overcoming adversity could alter perspectives. She found that lefties were more likely to agree with statements such as, “I worry about making mistakes,” and, “criticism or scolding hurts me quite a bit.” Lefties also agreed with statements like, “I crave excitement and new sensations,” and “I often act on spur of the moment.”
These impulses come from the right hemisphere of the brain, which controls negative aspects of emotion. Because of this, lefties become critical of themselves and often turn into perfectionists; which Wright says is a blessing in disguise. Lefties make lists, color code things, and seek adventure as a way to alleviate stress, but they are also quick problem solvers because they learned to adjust to the world around them not built to fit the needs of themselves as a people who are left-handed.
Being left-handed is often considered a curse, but, as a lefty myself, I have to disagree. Left-handers are a rarity and a mystery to scientists. We may never know what leads to lefties, but that’s part of our mystique! We have learned to overcome adversities brought on by living in a world meant for right-handers and it has made lefties a survivalist minority.
From Julius Caesar to Marilyn Monroe and Babe Ruth to Barack Obama, lefties have proven that they’re more than capable of holding their own.