Many cultures in the olden days had superstitions about left-handed people. But science has more recently demonstrated that left-handed people are indeed very special.
But it has not been plain sailing for left-handed people historically. Not only have superstitions often been against then but even in the 20th century, several studies suggested that on average (and everything else being equal) left-handed people tended to die at an earlier age, and they were also more likely to suffer accidents.
“The left-handed are precious; they take places which are inconvenient for the rest.” — Victor Hugo
The difficulties that left-handed people experienced in previous centuries and still, in many cases, continue to experience today are not innate to be them. There is nothing in left-handed people that would cause them to die earlier or have more accidents. The reason why life has been (and is) harder for left-handed people is that most things we use are designed for right-handed people.
The main reason for this is that right-handed people are the overwhelming majority of the population in the world. But, also, historically being right-handed was considered the “norm,” so even left-handed people were encouraged (or forced, sometimes, brutally) to use their right hand.
Being Left-Handed In A Right-Handed World
Right-handed people are often not aware of their privilege. Left-handed people, on the other hand, are all too aware of the difficulties they face even to do the most everyday things.
Consider, for example, that doors generally (i.e., unless specifically custom made for left-handed people) are designed for right-handed people. If you are right-handed, just try to open a door (any door) with your left hand!
“I’m left-handed, and it’s not very easy to find reasonably priced, high-quality left-handed guitars in the whole world, the Fender Mustang is my favorite. I’ve only owned two of them.” — Kurt Cobain
But doors are not the only problem. Consider also everyday objects most people use at home or at work (or both), such as can openers or scissors, which are all designed for right-handed people and with which many left-handed people struggle every day.
What Does Science Say About Left-Handed People?
So, if left-handed people sometimes struggle through life it is not because they are inherently clumsy or there is something else wrong with them.
Recently, scientific studies have revealed many interesting facts about being left-handed. For example, did you know that left-handed people are more likely to be excellent athletes than right-handed people? Or that they have been shown to be generally better at solving problems?
Why Are Some People Left-Handed?
This is a central question that scientists have not been able to answer yet.
According to some theories, left-handedness could be genetic and come down matrilineally (from the mother’s side). Yet, other studies propose that the chance of babies being left-handed increases when there is a larger amount of testosterone in the mother’s womb.
An interesting fact that another study suggests is that twins are more fifty-percent more likely than to be left-handed than non-twins.
How Many People Are Left-Handed?
One thing that makes left-handed people special is that they are a minority in the world.
We do not actually know exactly how many people are left-handed. But it is generally believed that the numbers are between 5 and 26 percent of the total population. The problem is that it is hard to count them, especially in some countries where being left-handed is still stigmatized.
Are Left-handed People Better at Sports?
Obviously, you can be good at sports whether you are right-handed or left-handed. But, it has been proved that left-handed people are more likely to be good at sports.
In general, it is thought that left-handed people are particularly gifted for sports that require interaction, such as tennis and baseball.
“Being left-handed has its advantages in volleyball. Few people know enough about your spike and serve to give you advice.” — John Kessel
If we look at tennis, alone, we will find that about 40 percent of all the best tennis players in the world are left-handed. Some historical examples of top left-handed tennis players would include the likes of Andrés Gómez, Courtney De Mone, Goran Ivanisevic, or John McEnroe.
Despite being in the minority, left-handed people make up 25 percent of all MLB (Major League Baseball) players. Baseball is clearly then one of the sports were left-handed people excel but there are others, too.
The advantage of left-handed tennis and baseball players is that they move differently to the right-handed majority of players, so it is easier for them to confuse their opponents who often do not know how to react to their (to them) strange or unusual movements on the court or the field.
Are Left-Handed People Better At Problem Solving?
The term for coming up with different possible solutions to the same problem is divergent thinking. Now, some scientists are saying that left-handed people are better at divergent thinking than right-handed people.
People who are good at divergent thinking are particularly suited for technology, art, and sciences.
Many U.S. presidents have been left-handed: Barak Obama, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, among others.
But, also other people how have succeeded in their respective careers are left-handed: Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Napoleon Bonaparte, Leonardo da Vinci, Marie Curie, Aristotle, Jimi Hendrix, among many others.
Can Left-Handedness Be “Corrected”?
Even regarding left-handedness as a condition that needs to be “corrected” is not only old-fashioned but plainly wrong.
“I was born left-handed, but I was made to use my other hand. When I was writing ‘Famished Road,’ which was very long, I got repetitive stress syndrome. My right wrist collapsed, so I started using my left hand. The prose I wrote with my left hand came out denser, so later on I had to change it.” — Ben Okri
But not that long ago in many countries in the West young left-handed people were forced to use their right hands, instead. For instance, it was not unusual for school teachers to force right-handed students to write with their right hand. Now, if you are right-handed, try to write with your left hand and you will immediately realize how painful and hard it is.
Proof that those techniques were not useful as attempts to eradicate left-handedness is that people continue to be left-handed.
Despite what it was believed in previous decades, left-handedness and left-handed people are here to stay.