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Lefties, Southpaws, Goofies: It's Your Day!


With three left-handers in my family – my dad, my sister, and my son – I’ve learned a few things about how biased the world is in favor of right-handers. From the left-to-right writing direction to left-blade kitchen knives, everything is made for right-handers because right-handers comprise 90% of the world’s population.


Lefties do have some advantages, though, notably in sports. In tennis, for example, a leftie topspin forehand can complicate things for an opponent as a heavy ball can land deep and high into their backhand, typically, the weaker side. It could explain why right-hander Rafael Nadal plays tennis left-handed and held the world #1 position for 209 weeks.


Handedness and footedness are related but not correlated. Footballer Lionel Messi, for example, is left-footed but right-handed. Similiarly, there is a relationship between handedness and eye dominance although it isn’t 100%. And although we do know that brain hemispheres control motor functions on opposite sides of the body, the jury is still out on the alleged advantages of lefties in intelligence* or creativity albeit the numerous creative and smartie lefties we’ve been lucky to have on earth: Leonardo da Vinci, Marie Curie, Alan Turing and ambidextrous Jimi Hendrix with his flipped Fender Stratocaster!


*For language nerds: The hemispheric intelligence fallacy (left/right-brain dominance) comes from pop science’s fictionalization and the sales world’s further commercialization of the studies of aphasic patients by 19th Century German neuropathologist Carl Wernicke and French anatomist Pierre Paul Broca. Wernicke and Broca independently found that lesions located in two left-hemisphere areas of the cortex resulted in loss of language functions with lesions in Wernicke’s area leading to difficulties in language reception and lesions in Broca’s, in language production.


Later studies then inferred that Wernicke’s area is largely responsible for the semantic processing of meaning in language, for example, word recognition, while Broca’s area is responsible for syntax and the manipulation of language, for example, time in grammar. More recently, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation studies conclude that the dominant side of the brain processes a good portion of language but the nondominant side might be used to disambiguate words with more than one sense, for example, to understand whether intelligence means smarts or research, or be able to understand not fine in a text that responds to You OK? with, fine.


Brain localization is an ambitious concept with fuzzy borders. But we do know what studies have not correlated: Language localization and handedness intelligence, left/right-brain hemispheric dominance and analytical capacity, or, my pet peeve noncorrelation all-time-bother, hemispheric localization and personality, which we know comes from lived experience, rightie or leftie!


So apologies, lefties, I return from this tangent to wish all southpaw boxers, goofy boarders and every sort of leftie a Happy International Lefthanders Day this Saturday, the 13th of August!

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