Just about one in ten of us are left-handed. Those of us — myself included — who are part of this club know all too well the pitfalls of being a lefty in a right-handed world. Scissors. Ay! Can openers. The worst! Those pens attached to cords at the bank require special tactics, you always get ink on your hands when you write.
It seems like the list never ends. Yet, there’s something special about being a lefty. Where we were once considered unholy, we’re now considered more clever and creative than our right-handed peers. But is there really that big of a difference between righties and lefties? More and more research is discovering that, no, there really isn’t. Oh well! We’re still special in our own way! Read on for some of the most surprising facts, and biggest myths, about “southpaws.”
1. RIGHTIES DON’T LIVE LONGER.
Do lefties die earlier than righties? Though this is an oft-repeated fact about the pitfalls of being a southpaw, most current research shows that it’s simply not true. The original research had a major flaw: it looked at the handedness of the dead, not the living. Why does that matter? Well, over the course of the 20th century, the number of left-handed people shot up dramatically because the practice of teaching left-handed children to use their right hand fell out favor. So, statistically, the younger you were, the more likely you were to be left-handed. And that created a major discrepancy when comparing life expectancy.
2. LEFTIES ARE SMARTER … IN SOME WAYS.
Left-handed people may not necessarily be smarter than their right-handed counterparts, but they do have distinct advantages in certain types of intelligence. For instance, lefties usually score higher than their right-handed counterparts in spatial skills, the ability to process multiple pieces of information at once and to adjust to new ways of thinking, and the ability to come up with new ideas by looking at a wide range of possible outcomes.
3. TWINS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE LEFT-HANDED.
I’m a twin and a lefty — and it looks like I’m not alone! Twins are about twice as likely as their singleton counterparts to be left-handed.
4. ANIMALS CAN BE LEFTIES, TOO.
Most animals have hand (or paw, or foot) preferences, but the ratio of righties to lefties is usually more evenly divided among species.
5. LEFTIES AREN’T MORE LIKELY TO HAVE MENTAL ILLNESSES.
A study conducted by researchers at the Yale Child Study Center found a staggering relationship between handedness and schizophrenia. Though just about 10 percent of the general population is left-handed, a whopping 40 percent of people with schizophrenia in the study were lefties. The research made headlines across the globe, but the sample size was small, and other, larger research studies have found no correlation between handedness and mental health.
6. WE DON’T KNOW WHY SOME PEOPLE ARE LEFT-HANDED.
Researchers simply don’t agree about what, exactly, causes people to be left-handed. Genetics are a factor in some cases, but it’s also possible that handedness develops because of hormones present in the womb during pregnancy or even environmental factors after birth.
7. LEFTIES AREN’T GOING AWAY ANY TIME SOON.
Southpaws may make up a paltry percentage of the population, but don’t expect us to go extinct! Lefties have a distinct evolutionary advantage — the element of surprise. Since most people are right-handed, an attack by a lefty throws off an opponent. Not convinced? Just look at the advantage left-handed professional sports players have over their right-handed counterparts.