It is generally accepted that the hand you write with defines your handedness. However, many people use their other hand for other major activities, such as throwing a ball or batting.
Handwriting is often used as the main identifier of left-handers and right-handers because it is a complex fine motor process requiring the co-ordination of many muscles to complete the task.
It is estimated that approximately 12% of the world’s population is left-handed, however this can vary widely between cultures. The Kwakiutl Indians of British Columbia in Canada have up to 22 percent left-handers while a number of Asian cultures have as little as 3 percent being left-handed.
The proportion of left-handers has largely remained unchanged for 5,000 years, according to archaeological finds of hand tools. The shape of the tool indicates which hand was used.
If left-handedness was a religion, we would be second to Christianity as the most popular and accepted belief in Australia.
International Left-Hander’s Day has been celebrated every year on the 13th August since 1975.
If you are ambidextrous, you can perform almost all tasks equally with both hands. Less than 1% of the population is truly ambidextrous. If you do some tasks with the left hand and some with the right, that is called “mixed laterality” and it is quite common.
Left-handers are generally more capable of using their right hand for tasks than right-handers are using their left hand.
There is no one genetic cause for left-handedness which makes predicting left-handed offspring difficult. A 2019 study identified 41 genetic loci associated with left-handedness – and another 7 for ambidexterity.
Males are 30% more likely to be left-handed than females.
Your chances of being born left-handed increase with your parent’s left-handedness:
– no lefty parents: about 5%
– father lefty, mother righty: about 12%
– mother lefty, father righty: about 15%
– both lefty parents: a little under 25%
Mothers aged between 30 and 35 are more likely to produce a left-handed child.
Girls will generally develop their hand preference earlier than boys.
Blondes are twice as likely to be left-handed than brunettes or redheads.
Left-handers generally wear their wristwatch on the right arm. This is to prevent the paper from catching on the watchband and tearing whilst writing. It also protects the watch as the right hand is used for fewer tasks and is therefore less likely to be bumped and damaged. For most of us, we also use our more nimble left hand to buckle the strap so wearing it on the right wrist makes even more sense!
Women’s clothes button up on the opposite side to men’s clothing. This comes from Victorian times when the English upper class ladies were dressed by their right-handed maids.
Throwing salt over the left shoulder is supposed to ward off evil spirits that lurk there.
Pouring wine with the left hand is supposed to bring bad luck.
A left-handed toast is said to be insincere or even wishing evil against the recipient.
Leonardo da Vinci, a very famous left-handed artist and inventor from the 15th Century, wrote most of his personal manuscripts in mirror writing. He is also said to have been able to write the same text simultaneously with both hands, the right hand writing normally and the left hand in mirror writing.
Left-handed children will often have been seen sucking their left thumb on their pregnancy ultrasounds.
Most climbing plants entwine to the right. Honeysuckle entwines to the left.
Your hair whorl indicate your handedness: a lefty’s hair whorls anticlockwise, right-handers go clockwise.
It is against the rules to play polo left-handed.
Charles Darwin studied the handedness of his family. His wife and two of his eight children were left-handed. He noted “that it is well known to be inherited”.
One in four Apollo astronauts were left-handed – more than twice the general population.
The Scouting handshake is with the left hand. Their founder (Lord Baden-Powell) learned while in Africa that this was a demonstration between tribes of great trust and friendship and he thought this would be a great gesture for Scouts to use.
Lefties tend to be stronger in combat and opponent sports as the angles are different for the right-hander. Left-handers also have lots of right-handers to train against to build their skills!
Most of The Muppets characters are left-handed. This is because most of the Muppeteers are right-handed, using their right hand inside the head and their left arm for the limb movements.
Michelangelo, a lefty, painted his fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel that shows Adam receiving life from God through the left hand. His famous statue of David depicts him as a left-handed sling-shotter, holding the rock in his right hand.
The animal kingdom also has its left-handers. Kangaroos (notably the Eastern Grey and the Red Kangaroos) and gorillas are left-hand dominant. All Australian Sulphur-Crested White Cockatoos are left-handed and the majority of other Australian parrots are left-handed, all holding their food in their left foot. Nearly half of all polar bears, chimpanzees and cats show a preference for the left side too.
Most mollusc shells twist from left to right.
To open a screw-top jar or bottle, grasp the lid with your left hand and the jar with your right. You will have greater strength due to the stronger muscles used in supination of the forearm (as opposed to the weaker muscles of pronation). It is also sometimes described as the external rotation of the wrist.
Most left-handers will draw a character facing to the right.
There is a higher proportion of left-handers in M.E.N.S.A. when compared to the general population.
Coffin screws are traditionally a left-handed thread.
Lefties think quicker than right-handers when playing computer games or sports.
The greatest of the Arapaho Indians in America was Chief Left Hand, so named from his childhood habit of using his left hand.
Only 30% of left-handers write using the ‘hooked’ position, where the hand is higher on the page to the words being written.
Four of the five creators of the original Macintosh computer were left-handed.
Left-handers are stronger at divergent thinking – coming up with multiple solutions to a problem.
Newborn babies that are placed on their tummy will give a strong indication on their future handedness. Left-handed babies turn their head to the left and right-handers to the right.
The left foot is less ticklish than the right.
Left-handers can learn to use their right hand, after an injury for example, far easier than a right-hander can with their left hand.
The men’s singles trophy at the Australian Open is named in honour of Norman Everard Brookes, one of our many highly-accomplished left-handed tennis players.
The famous Australian children’s entertainment group, Hi-5, uses a left hand in their emblem.
Left-handers have faster eye-hand coordination with their non-dominant hand than do right-handers.
Tradition has it that Santa Claus holds onto the left side of his nose to go back up the chimney.
Left-handers do not die younger than right-handers! A study in the 1990s found that lefties died 9 years younger than righties but the study was flawed in that it looked at the ages of deceased persons within a defined time frame. The cohort of right-handers included a number of left-handers who had been forced to be right-handed at an early age, so it only included the younger lefties that were allowed to remain lefties once society allowed it.
‘Stewardesses’ is the longest word in the English language that is typed using only the left hand.
Elias Howe, a lefty, invented and patented the lockstitch sewing machine in the mid-1800s. Isaac Singer copied his machine and the dispute was settled in the courts in Howe’s favour.
There is a town called Left Hand in West Virginia in the USA.
A study showed a higher proportion of left-handers in the mathematically gifted.
Left-handers use both sides of the brain for verbal processing, while right-handers only use the left side of the brain.
A study showed that left-handers have a thicker corpus collosum, the section joining the two halves of the brain. It is thought that this helps with communications between the two hemispheres, fostering better processing of multiple stimuli and their strengths of spatial awareness and problem solving.