We asked a psychologist whether left-handed people really are any different
They might be more creative, but they don’t live longer
People will tell you left-handers use a different side of the brain so they’re more artistic, they’re better at table tennis and they even live longer. These people are probably left-handed, wanting to feel different because they are different – smudging their writing, struggling with right-handed scissors and tin openers because there’s no such thing as the Leftorium in real life. There’s something about only being able to write words with your left hand which puts you at a disadvantage, but are there actually any real advantages? Professor Chris McManus is one of the world’s top experts on left-handed people. He even wrote an entire book on it called Left Hand, Right Hand in which he looked into of people who write with either hands. We tracked him down to clear up the myths about left-handers.
A lot of people say left handers are more creative and they use a different part of their brain more. Is there any truth in this?
There may be. Although there are recurrent claims of increased creativity in left-handers, there is very little to support the idea in the scientific literature. There are many myths about left-handedness, often spread by websites for left-handers, and sorting out the truth from the myths is far from easy.
One rumour is that they live longer – is this true?
The much-quoted story is the left-handers die seven-years or so younger than right-handers. It is utterly false and there have been many studies since it first came out (in a very well-known science journal) showing that there are no longevity differences at all.
How many of us are out there?
About 11% of the UK population is left-handed, with a higher rate in men than women, there being about five left-handed males for every four left-handed females.
Does being left-handed mean you’re more likely to go into a certain job or take a certain career path?
Not in any obvious way — any effects there are (and it is not clear) are very small indeed.
So are there are actually any benefits to being left-handed?
Left-handers seems to benefit from being in a minority in one-on-one sports such as fencing, tennis, table-tennis, etc. It is due to a strategic advantage as right-handers are less used to playing left-handers and therefore find them harder to ‘read’ whereas left-handers mostly play right-handers and so they know better how to predict them.
Is there any reason why left handers often do a lot of things in the right-handed way? For example I’m left-handed but eat the right-handed way and use scissors with my right hand.
It is a right-handed world, dominated by right-handers and largely built by right-handers, so things such as scissors tend to be made by right-handers for right-handers. Try and find a digital camera with all the buttons worked by the left-hand! So left-handers tend to find they have no choice but to adapt.