13th August is International Lefthanders Day, but what’s the big deal and why do they need a day especially for them?

… If you’re asking this, you’re probably right-handed. Writing from a left-handed perspective – literally, at a laptop stand that’s set up the opposite way – my hand dominance is a problem I’ve faced throughout my life. 

Childhood was definitely the worst; if you’re lucky enough to avoid the teachers that try to teach left-handedness out of you, you’ll then have many years of battle ahead, fighting for the few left-handed supplies, or learning how to adapt the right-handed ones when that’s the only option (unlike scissors and hockey sticks, you can’t turn a right-handed desk upside-down to make it leftie-friendly). As a toddler, I even lost out on a modelling job for Toys R Us because I was “wrong” for the shot set-up… a first world problem, but one that I was unable to control. Some see it as discrimination and others as just an oversight but, either way, life as a leftie can be tough.

Hand History

Let’s take a look back in the history books. It’s possible to tell from the way tools were crafted that people in the Stone Age were equally left and right-handed, but with cave drawings being made mainly with the left. Since then, however, the right hand has taken the lead. Unexpectedly, this may stem from sun-worshipping rituals; when you’re in the Northern hemisphere you face south and follow the sun setting in the west, which means you’ll be moving to the right-hand-side (although I can confirm that with the recent heatwave, not one of us at B1 has been worshipping the sun…).

Then there’s the battlefield. As your heart is on the left-hand-side of your body, that’s also where your shield goes to protect it, leaving the right hand to wield your weapon.

A bit of bad luck

Christianity has a large part to play in left-handed-ness being associated with bad luck. Not only are you blessed with the right hand but in the Bible, the right is mentioned favourably over 100 times (“The right hand of the Lord”, etc), and the left hand has 25 unfavourable mentions. The Devil himself was described and depicted as a leftie. Ever been told to throw salt over your left shoulder when you spill it? That’s because the left is where the Devil sits.

Wherever you are in the world, language isn’t on the left-handers’ side. In Greek, Italian, French, German and many more languages, the word “left” can also be translated to crooked, clumsy or awkward. We aren’t much better in English-speaking countries either (“two left feet” is never a compliment). The left hand is considered by a lot of cultures to be the dirtier, weaker hand, and it’s often seen as bad luck to shake with it. 

Just for lefties

It’s no wonder, therefore, that most of the world has been designed for right-handed people. Whether they were forced into it or born that way, righties make up about 9 in 10 of us and lefties have had to learn to live with it. However, it is now possible to buy most problematic products in left-hand versions including scissors, pens, keyboards, kitchen utensils, musical instruments and notebooks. Companies like Apple have now also made it possible to adjust displays for their left-handed users; the Apple Watch can be rotated and reset, and the Apple Mouse is perfectly symmetrical, allowing for left and right-dominant clicking depending on how you set it up.

The artistic upper hand?

Did you spot that most of the products listed above are linked to the creative industries? It’s commonly considered that lefties are more artistically inclined. Mozart, Da Vinci, Picasso and Hendrix would certainly agree, but is this fact or fiction?

After a lot of research I can confirm that… it’s hard to say for sure. There have been studies over many decades that show left-handed people are artistic and creative, possibly even more so than right-handed people, but whether that trait is inherently linked with your dominant hand is hard to prove.

A study carried out by the University of Groningen in The Netherlands asked participants whether they considered themselves creative. The left-handed participants judged themselves to be more artistically creative than right-handers but interestingly when they were tested on the amount of time spent on artistic activities, there was no difference. Perhaps the first finding was because lefties have been told that they are supposed to be more creative, rather than “talent”? 

How do you measure creativity?

Like hands, feet and even ears and eyes, most believe that people can be either left-brained or right-brained too. The right-hand-side of the brain controls the muscles on the left-hand-side of the body, and vice versa. According to Harvard Health:

Those who are right-brained are supposed to be intuitive and creative free thinkers. They are “qualitative”, big-picture thinkers who experience the world in terms that are descriptive or subjective. For example, “The skies are gray and menacing; I wonder if it’s going to rain?” Meanwhile, left-brained people tend to be more quantitative and analytical. They pay attention to details and are ruled by logic. Their view of the weather is more likely, “The forecast said there was only a 30% chance of rain, but those cumulonimbus clouds will probably bring thunder as well as rain.”

Harvard Health and others do conclude, however, that this can come down to environment and training, and not just decided at birth. It’s also hard to say that analytical brains can’t be seen as creative when applied to the correct field; as we know, creativity and art isn’t just measured by what you can do with a paint brush.

B1’s DNA

Lastly, a fun finding… In 2019 scientists found genetic instructions in DNA that are linked to being left-handed, which are connected to the parts of the brain that involve language. Oxford University also discovered that left-handed people may have better verbal skills because of this – a coincidence that as B1’s Content Lead, I am the only leftie on the team? I think not! 👍