5 Myths About Left-Handed People to Stop Believing (and 2 Surprising Truths)
Just 10 percent of the population is left-handed. There are many myths about the differences between righties and lefties, yet most evidence is anecdotal and more research needs to be done. Here’s the truth behind some of the most common myths about lefties.
Left-handed isn’t wrong-handed
Lefties can get a bad rap—in some languages, the word for left-handed can be synonymous with sinister or out-of-fashion. This negativity tends to come from a lack of familiarity: Only about 10 percent of the population has a dominant left hand, according to the American Psychological Association. As a result, a lot of misinformation surrounds southpaws. Here’s the info on left-handers that you can take with a grain of salt.
Myth: Lefties are more creative
There are some things that all super creative people have in common; being left-handed isn’t one of them. The link between left-handers and creativity is a longstanding myth that is likely just that—a myth. A study from 2014 calls out that most research showing lefties being more creative than righties is pretty weak, especially when it comes to females. There are, however, some dangers to being left-handed.
Myth: Lefties are more likely to be leaders
Six of the last 12 U.S. presidents have been lefties, but that’s only considered presidential trivia, not a qualification for the job. There’s no hard scientific evidence that handedness had anything to do with their leadership skills. “Some of the basis for those observations between leadership and handedness comes from looking at historical figures. The extrapolation is that there must be something common between these individuals who are elected and successful, one being their handedness,” says Elizabeth Ochoa, PhD, chief psychologist at Mount Sinai-Beth Israel. But that isn’t necessarily true. Check out these other science myths.
Myth: Lefties are more intelligent
“There’s an idea that left-handed people are more intelligent, but that’s not so,” says Dr. Ochoa. Lefties may, however, think differently. “The world is not a left-handed-friendly place—utensils, scissors, and other items of daily use are designed for the right-handed person,” says Dr. Ochoa. “Left-handed people have to think flexibly and come up with ways to use those tools and navigate.”
Myth: Lefties are introverted
Another common lore is that left-handed people tend to be more introverted than righties. But a 2013 New Zealand study published in the journal Laterality found no differences across any of the five personality measures tested between right-handers and left-handers. The researchers wrote: “The belief and stereotype that left-handers are more introverted and open to experience than right-handers was not reflected in the empirical data, which argues against a left-handed personality arising as either a reflection of—or a reaction against—societal beliefs.” Turns out, which hand you write with doesn’t necessarily determine your personality. (This is the real reason people are right- or left-handed.)
Myth: Lefties are “right-brained”
Since most right-handed people use the left hemisphere of the brain to process language, that must mean that left-handed people think with the right side of the brain, right? Not necessarily. A study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that it isn’t necessarily which hand you use that determines your cognitive performance. Instead, it’s how often you stick to using that hand. People who were able to switch sides more often showed better brain function and accessed the right side of the brain more, compared to people who could use their left or right hand only.
Fact: Lefties may have more sleep problems
A small study in the journal Chest monitored the rhythmic limb movements of right-handers and left-handers while they slept. Researchers found that 94 percent of left-handed sleepers had limb movements (which can be an indicator of the sleep disturbance known as periodic limb movement disorder) compared to 69 percent of right-handed snoozers.
Fact: People with certain mental health disorders are more likely to be left-handed
Among people suffering from mental illness, those with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia are much more likely to be left-handed than those with mood disorders like depression or bipolar disorder, according to a study published in the journal SAGE Open. Researchers studied a small group of individuals from an outpatient psychiatric clinic and found that 40 percent of those with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder were left-handed. Researchers are particularly interested in exploring the link between characteristics of psychosis (such as hallucinations or delusions) and handedness; they believe the answer may lie in what part of the brain lefties tend to use more. The study authors hope that by finding biomarkers like this, they’ll be able to identify and differentiate mental disorders earlier and maybe even tailor treatments. Next, check out these hilarious tweets only left-handers will understand.
- Journal of Economic Perspectives. "The Wages of Sinistrality: Handedness, Brain Structure, and Human Capital Accumulation"
- Elizabeth Ochoa, PhD, chief psychologist at Mount Sinai-Beth Israel in New York City
- Laterality. "A sinister plot? Facts, beliefs, and stereotypes about the left-handed personality"
- Frontiers in Psychology. "Degree of handedness, but not direction, is a systematic predictor of cognitive performance"
- Chest: "Assessment of Periodic Limb Movements in Right-handed Versus Left-handed Patients"
- SAGE Open: "Left-Handedness Among a Community Sample of Psychiatric Outpatients Suffering From Mood and Psychotic Disorders"