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Why are some people left-handed?

Once thought to be in league with the devil, left-handed people, while not especially evil, are indeed special in many ways. James May explains all in this Head Squeeze video.


In mediaeval times lefties were believed to be in league with Beelzebub himself, this gave rise to the word sinister from the Latin ‘sinistra’ meaning of the left. Later on scientists proposed that left-handed people had their brains wired differently, which turned out to be only partially true.

Most of us, between 75 to 90 percent use the left hemisphere of our brains to speak and understand language. The other hemisphere is used to control our dominant hand. Research has shown however that only 30 per cent of left-handers have reversed brain lateralisation, or indeed no dominant side at all.

Genetics play a big part in your dominant hand. If you have two left-handed parents, there is 26 per cent chance that you will be too. This is double the average odds.

There are some statistical advantages and disadvantages to being left-handed. Schizophrenia, dyslexia and ADHD are more prevalent. However susceptibility to arthritis and ulcers is less.

Left-handed people do well in sport and fighting, as the majority of people are not used to going up against such opponents. There is evidence that they are more creative too with a disproportionate amount of artists painting with their left hand.

In terms of famous left-handed people, four out of the last seven presidents have been – President Obama, Clinton, Bush senior and Ford.

However as only those who are true lefties know, the world is stacked against them. Dozens of daily household items we take for granted, from corkscrews to scissors, even books, are designed for the right-handed majority.