Hands Down

Hands Down

Let’s take a little test to begin. How do you feel about the following photos?

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Most likely, you feel pretty apathetic toward them, but 10% of you probably have photo-induced anxiety. The same group also began their transformation into the silver surfer after a long day in elementary school. Yes, talkin’ about you, lefties!

As you began your daily erase and scrub of your left hand, you may have even wondered, “Why the heck does this even happen?”

Why do we favor one hand over another? There isn’t one simple explanation, but rather a few hypotheses. 

In a study from 2012, mathematicians from Northwestern used a computer model that mimicked the impact of competitiveness and cooperation on handedness. 

While angrily searching for a left-handed glove, coaches console t-ballers that some of the greatest athletes are left-handed. Thirty percent of major league baseball pitchers and half of the top hitters tend to be lefties. Because many of the players are righties, practices are centered around right handed opponents, giving southpaws a particular advantage when it comes to the actual competition. Looking back further in human history, the surprise of left-handedness gave early humans a greater chance of survival in combat. However, there is another force at play. Humans are also cooperative in addition to competitive. By sharing tools, like stupid right-handed gloves, right handers have an advantage over the lefties, who are occasionally injured by using tools meant for the other 90 percent of the population. With these two factors at play, the mathematical model was able to give an accurate distribution seen in everyday life. 

Another hypothesis found that handedness was associated with language development. Our bodies are contralateral, meaning that the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body and vice versa. (Meaning us lefties are the only ones in our right minds!) Language and logical processing are localized in the left side of the brain, so it would follow accordingly that the left side of the brain would be used for written language as well, making someone right handed. This theory is coupled with the finding that many lefties process language evenly between the two sides of the brain and some even process language entirely on the right side. 

Lastly, while geneticists have hypothesized that there is a particular gene associated with handedness, no such gene has been found.

No, not that kind of Gene. 

Genes are created in duplicate, giving each the opportunity for a mutation. In 2013, geneticists looked at a gene often associated with dyslexia and found that common mutations in this gene often led to right handedness. After expanding the study to people who were not dyslexic, it appeared that the more mutations favoring one hand or another had a stronger impact on handedness.

One of the more challenging aspects in understanding handedness is that no animals exhibit the same 90-10 bias as humans. That is, except for our dear friend the parrot which has a 90-10 bias toward left-handedness. A-parrot-ly, we have a lot more in common with Polly than we thought, ain’t that right, Iago?

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Either way, despite all of the struggles lefties have to face, we all know you wouldn't have it any other way!

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