They have been repressed for centuries, but now left-handers, or ‘lefties’, are having their revenge. Science is not yet sure what brings a person to favour the use of their left hand, but it is likely a combination of genetics, environment and familiarity, and while nobody has discovered the ‘leftie gene’ studies have found certain personality traits typical of left-handers. Scientists say that the tendency to use your left hand not only makes you more intelligent and more creative, but also richer, as it has been shown that left-handers earn, on average, more during their lifetime than right-handed people.
Until recently, being left-handers was considered a natural flaw, a mistake to be corrected. In schools, children were forced to use their right hand as soon as they were discovered to be ‘different’; sometimes their left hands were tied behind their back to prevent them for using them.
‘Left’ was considered bad in every respect. More widely, the concept of the ‘left’ carried negative connotations in many cultures: for the Catholics, left is the side of the devil, and in some Islamic cultures, people must eat with their right hand, with the left one being considered ‘impure’. Despite the fact that being a ‘leftie’ makes your everyday life slightly more difficult (scissors, fountain pens, corkscrews and many other tools are still made by and large for right-handers), at least nobody today tries to change people natural manual preferences any more.
In fact, someday the tables might turn completely. Professor Chris McManus, of University College in London, and the author of ‘Right Hand, Left Hand’, says that the number of lefties will continue to increase even more, because women are having children at an older age. So with left-handers being more intelligent and creative, they could bring about a kind of left-handed Renaissance.
But, until the big revolution comes, left-handers will have to settle with their own day, the 13th of August, International Left-handers Day, observed since 1976 to raise awareness of the inconveniences of using the ‘different’ hand in a right-handed world.
But being left or right handed is not the only possibility. A small 1% of the global population is totally ambidextrous, perfectly capable of using the right or left hands (and often feet) interchangeably. But what would seem to be the perfect manual ability is not always an advantage. Ambidextrous people are also more easily influenced by external factors, they are likely to suffer changes in mood, are more quick to anger, more prone to dyslexia, and have difficulties with mathematics, memory and reasoning. And they have more possibilities to possess LRRTM1 gene, which is linked to schizophrenia. And, although not necessarily negative, a 2006 study conducted by BBC Science showed that the ambidextrous are more easily attracted to both sexes (9.2% of men and 15.6% of women have declared themselves bisexual).