Left versus right

The more I think about right and left handedness, the more I start to wonder.

Left handed people make up around 10% of the population, Historically, left-handedness was associated with witchcraft and devil worship. The Latin for left is “sinister”. People have always been demonised for being different, but if we put aside bigotry and ignorance, why is it that 10% of the world’s population prefer to use their left hand for manual tasks?

Most foetuses suck their right thumb and thumb sucking preference after birth predicts whether a child will be right or left handed.  It therefore seems that handedness is decided before birth.

To be left handed can be advantageous especially in certain sports. For example, a left handed boxer or “south-paw” has the element of surprise.  Because most people are right handed, including boxers, people are not so familiar with fighting a south-paw which gives the latter an advantage. This is true for other interactive sports – fencing, tennis, baseball, martial arts, but not true for non-interactive sports like gymnastics and swimming. However, if more people were left handed, the advantage would decrease because right handed athletes would encounter them more often.

If you watch TV and films, you might spot that more than 10% of actors appear to be left handed. Is this because they struggled more at school in an environment designed for right handed people so developed their creative and performance skills at the expense of more formal school skills? For example, teaching a leftie handwriting is hard if you are right handed because everyone needs a good role model and sometimes this fact is ignored. Even getting the pencil grip correct is fraught with difficulty – many develop nasty hooks because we write English left to write and if you are left handed your hand covers up what you have written as you move along the line unless you tilt the paper correctly. If this is not made explicit at an early age, then problems can develop and the confused left handed child can develop negative opinions about their ability to do “school stuff”. As another example, try using a ruler left handed and notice how hard it is to see the numbers because your hand gets in the way as you move the pencil across.

I have recently noticed that a lot of bell ringers are left handed. Not that they necessarily ring left handed – it depends how they were taught, but when they pick up a pen to sign the attendance book there is that familiar hook grip. It would be interesting to know whether there is a disproportionate number of left handed ringers in the Exercise and why might that be? Superior spatial and perceptual skills might come into play?

Interestingly, my teacher rings left handed despite being right handed. Most odd, but it goes back to one’s original role model. If you are taught left handed then you tend to ring left handed even if that is not your natural disposition.  Luckily, she does not pass on her tendency to others and rings left but teaches right. We did all try to ring “backwards” once when we were first learning and it caused much confusion and hilarity!

A question – how many ringers are left handed and is it more than 10%? Why don’t we do a straw poll and find out?

One comment

  1. I am: but I ring right-handed because that’s the way I was taught. But I’ve also read that one should ring right-handed because of the way the bellrope is laid.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s