Lefties have been discriminated for centuries because people take exception to others who are different. They have had to learn to adapt to a world full of right-handed people, tools, and furniture, and have even been put to death for witchcraft. Jokes are made of lefties being unlucky, evil or brain-damaged — and giving a person a left-handed compliment is not a good thing.
According to researcher Alan Searleman of St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, “southpaws have higher IQs, solve problems better and enjoy more extensive vocabularies than righties.” Searleman’s research found there were more left-handed people with IQs over 140 than right-handed people. He also points out that some of the most brilliant people to ever live — like Sir Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein were lefties. In addition, with the exception of George W. Bush, every President of the United States since 1981 has been left handed.
In one study of more than 100,000 students taking the SAT (Standard Aptitude Test) 20% of the top-scoring students were left-handed. That is twice the percentage of the population as a whole (10%).
Approximately 3%-4% of the world’s population is solely left-handed, 25%-33% are mixed, and 60%-70% are consistently right-handed. Truly ambidextrous people are rare. These statistics are surprising because most people believe others are either left or right-handed, and only a few are able to function well using both hands.
Even Dr. Oz conceded there could be some merit to the question. According to him, “Well, in a way, left-handed people are smarter, and I’ll tell you why,” Dr. Oz says. “Left-handed people can deal with more incoming information that doesn’t come in an organized way.” He added, “The left brain normally controls your right side, which is really powerful,” he says. “[In left-handed people], it allows the other side, the right brain, to become an equal partner.”
Due to the fact that left-handed people can use both sides of their brain more readily (due to having to adapt to a right-handed world), Dr. Oz says, they can process information coming into their brain in different ways more easily. “That’s why athletes do so well when they’re left-handed…And there are a lot of folks who, because they can deal with a lot of complicated issues at once, work pretty effectively,” he says.
Dr. Oz goes on to say, however, that hand dominance does not mean dominance in other areas — like the eyes. “Folks actually use their different parts of their brain very differently, and it’s sort of cool to understand how it all comes up.”
Don’t be discouraged righties — left-handed people have the worst memories, and statistics show they don’t live as long, are more likely to get into accidents, have more mental problems like schizophrenia, alcoholism, and dyslexia.
“Handedness is controlled by a whole lot of pathways in the brain, and if any one of these pathways is mucked up during gestation, then handedness becomes a cosmic dice game,” said Stanley Coren, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia and author of “The Left-Handed Syndrome.” “We believe this accounts for about half of all left-handers.” It could be that this early trauma is also the trigger behind health problems linked to left-handedness, as Coren points to two famous left-handers, Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, as evidence. Both had histories of birth stress and have health issues.
As Coren says, it may be that left-handed people occupy the extremes when it comes to health and ability. “The anomaly is left-handed people make up the extremely gifted and the extremely compromised,” said Coren. “The rest of us make up the middle ground.”
From the desk of Ron White
Wikipedia — Handedness: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handedness
Santrock, John W.(2008). Motor, Sensory, and Perceptual Development. Mike Ryan [Ed.], A Topical Approach to Life-Span Development(pgs.172-205). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
Indiana University — Handedness and Brain Lateralization: http://www.indiana.edu/~primate/brain.html
The Journal for Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience — Handedness and Cerebral Dominance: http://neuro.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/10/4/459
ABC News — The Left-Handed Advantage: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=498707&page=2
Oprah.com — Are left-handed people smarter than right-handed people? : http://www.oprah.com/health/Dr-Oz-Answers-Burning-Medical-Questions/15