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The frustrations of being left-handed in a right-handed world

By Nicole M Pihan Mar 11, 2020

Does being left-handed come at a price? Nicole Pihan uncovers the myths and truths around being left-handed and how lefties are not feeling left out.

What do Albert Einstein, Robert De Niro and Angelina Jolie all have in common?

Like 10 per cent of the world, they are left-handed.

Historically, being a leftie was looked down upon for centuries and considered something negative.

The Italian word for left is sinistra, which also means sinister. The origin of which goes back to the Middle Ages, where they associated left-handedness with witchcraft, the Devil, and sin.

Despite this, being left-handed is not a great struggle and has many positive aspects, according to left-handed KU students.

Third-year fashion student Paulina Czajor says: “On a day-to-day basis, I don’t think about the hassle of being left-handed.

“I struggle with scissors, knitting and, in particular, using a sewing machine. But rather than reaching for special equipment, I just find my own way to use the commonly available tools.”

Final-year graphic design student Holly Moxham feels the same: “The most annoying part of being left-handed was always writing with ink or on the whiteboard. My hands, clothes and everything gets dirty.

“Other than that, I just find my ways around stuff subconsciously.”

Charlie Chaplin, Leonardo Davinci, and Barack Obama are some examples of influential and admired figures who belong to the left-handed population.


Perks of being left-handed

Areas where left-handers seem to flourish include creativity, language skills, and sporting success.

Bella Mcevoy, a third-year illustration animation student, says that left-handed people are more creative as “we need to find our way around stuff” to avoid accidents.

“We train our brain to find unusual solutions to usual activities.”

Although creativity is one of the most commonly recognised characteristics of left-handed people, recent research brings to light a new skill which is more prevalent within the left-handed population.

Akira Wiberg, an expert in common hand conditions, says: “There is a possibility that left-handed people have an advantage when it comes to performing verbal tasks.

“The language areas of the left and right sides of the brain communicate with each other in a more co-ordinated way among left-handed people.”

Lefties also seem to out-perform their right-handed counterparts when it comes to sport, performing very well in basketball, baseball, and fencing which record over 25 per cent of the top athletes being left-handed.

Joycelyn Frazier, a third-year student of creative writing and English literature, was very optimistic about this: “I liked having the advantage of being left-handed when I played sports.”


So, what does it mean to be left-handed?

From a scientific perspective, it means that the right side of the brain is dominant and more responsive than the left.

According to research carried out by Oxford University: “It is just a consequence of the developmental biology of the brain, it has nothing to do with luck or maliciousness.”

The research also proved that handedness depends 25 per cent on genetics and 75 per cent on the environment in which the child is raised, starting in the womb.

Factors like stress during pregnancy, an unbalanced lifestyle, and cultural impacts will play a much bigger role in determining the dominant hand of a child, than genetics.


So what are the myths around being left-handed?

Shorter life expectancy, increased risk of accident, and mental disorder are just a few examples.

All lefties The River spoke to were scared by the prospect of losing a decade of their life because they are left-handed.

This shorter life expectancy was found in the 1990s by American psychologists who proved it to be true before modern technology and researchers dubbed it a myth.

Professor of psychology and medical education at UCL, Chris McManus says in his book Right Hand, Left Hand: “There is some evidence that left-handers are more likely to have minor accidents, but it’s pretty insubstantial, and I doubt if it’s affecting the mortality rate very much at all,” he says.

But it is not all in the clear for our left-handed friends as they are more likely to suffer from schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a 2014 Harvard study.

One left-handed student who has been diagnosed with ADHD, among other behavioural and developmental disorders, says: “I knew that my disabilities are all linked together, but I wasn’t aware it was related to the fact that I’m left-handed.

“I also didn’t know that it was more common among lefties.”

There is still a long way to go before we fully understand the influence it has on people and what the implications are, but until then, being a leftie can be a starting point for conversation or just an interesting fact to remember someone by.

Mcevoy says: “Some people and cultures consider left-handed people to be associated with witches and witchcraft, and honestly, I like that concept.”

Read Nicole Pihan’s comment piece on the frustrations of being left-handed.

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