What do they say about left handers?

Left-handed people make up about 10% of the world’s population. Despite being a minority, lefties have made quite a mark on the world and have been both celebrated and reviled throughout history. But what exactly do people say about left handers? Here’s an overview of some common perceptions and facts about left-handedness.

Myths and Misconceptions

Left-handed people have been subject to various myths and misconceptions over the years. Here are some common ones:

They are more creative

One popular myth is that left-handers are more creative and better at divergent thinking. Some famous creative lefties like Leonardo da Vinci and Paul McCartney seem to back up this notion. However, scientifically speaking, research has been inconclusive in determining if lefties are more creative on average.

They are smarter

A related myth is that left-handed people are smarter than right-handers. This likely stems from the higher proportion of lefties found in groups like architects, mathematicians, and musicians. However, left-handers make up a larger share of people with learning disabilities as well. Overall intelligence levels seem to be evenly distributed between lefties and righties.

They are more clumsy

On the other hand (no pun intended), lefties are often unfairly characterized as being more clumsy and accident prone. The reasoning is that lefties struggle to adapt to a right-handed world. While lefties may have more difficulty with things like using certain machines or tools designed for righties, clumsiness is not inherently connected to left-handedness.

They die younger

An ominous myth suggests that left-handed people have shorter lifespans. This may be connected to outdated and dubious theories that left-handedness was somehow connected to developmental disorders. However, modern research found no difference in lifespan between righties and lefties.

Traits and Abilities

While many myths about lefties have been debunked, research has uncovered some real differences that seem connected to left-handedness:

Enhanced spatial skills

Studies show left-handers often have enhanced spatial abilities compared to right-handers. Lefties tend to have strong skills in processing 3D information and manipulating objects in their mind. This helps explain the higher numbers of lefties in fields like architecture and engineering.

Better multitasking

Left-handers may also have some cognitive advantages when it comes to multitasking. Studies found lefties were better able to process and divide attention between conflicting tasks. The left-handed brain seems to have greater interconnectivity between different areas.

More resilience

Having to live in a world adapted for righties may actually provide some mental benefits. Dealing with this daily adversity may give lefties greater resilience and mental flexibility according to some psychologists. The brains of left-handers may be more efficient at rewiring neural pathways.

Health Concerns

While the health of left-handers is no worse overall than right-handers, there are some medical conditions they should be aware of:

Increased risk of PTSD

Lefties have a higher risk of post-traumatic stress disorder compared to righties according to multiple studies. The reasons are still unclear. It could be related to differences in brain hemispheres or stress hormone levels.

Higher risk of schizophrenia

Research has observed that schizophrenia occurs more frequently in left-handers compared to the general population. The rate may be as much as double. The reasons are not fully understood but may be related to differences in brain anatomy.

Increased alcoholism risk

According to some studies, left-handed men in particular show much higher rates of alcoholism than right-handed men. The association is less clear in women. Reasons may include differences in how the brain processes rewards.

Famous and Successful Left Handers

While lefties were once treated with suspicion, many famous and accomplished people throughout history have been left-handed. Here are just a few notable lefties:

Name Occupation
Barack Obama U.S. President
Bill Gates Founder of Microsoft
Oprah Winfrey Media mogul and talk show host
Paul McCartney Musician and songwriter
Tom Cruise Actor
Neil Armstrong Astronaut
Marie Curie Scientist
Leonardo da Vinci Inventor and artist
Cole Porter Composer and songwriter
Julia Roberts Actor

This list of renowned left-handed people highlights that lefties can thrive and succeed in many different professions despite facing greater adaptation challenges in a right-handed world.

Advantages of Left-Handedness in Sports

Being left-handed can actually provide some surprising advantages in sports and athletics. Here are a few ways lefties excel in physical activities:

Element of surprise

Opponents are simply less accustomed to playing against left-handed moves and throws. Lefties can catch them off guard with the unanticipated angles.

Different perspective

Lefties literally take a different perspective on the playing field that lets them see things from fresh angles. This can enable creative strategies.

Strategic advantages in some sports

In sports like tennis, baseball, boxing and fencing, being left-handed poses inherent strategic challenges for predominantly right-handed opponents. Lefties excel in these sports.

Better divergent thinking

Enhanced spatial abilities gives lefties potential advantages in sports requiring fluid improvisation and quick adjustments. They can see more possibilities.

Challenges for Left-Handed Athletes

Despite their unique edge in some areas, lefties face their share of challenges and frustration:

Lack of specialized equipment

From golf clubs to baseball gloves, equipment is overwhelmingly tailored for righties. Lefties may have to settle for awkward modifications.

Technique challenges

Coaches versed in training right-handed players may struggle to properly teach lefties some techniques and grips.

No left-handed role models

Given the minority status of left-handers, aspiring left-handed athletes have fewer professional role models that compete using a left-handed approach.

Potentially more injuries

Data on left-handed injuries is inconclusive, but some studies suggest lefties are slightly more injury prone in sports, potentially due to equipment issues and technique challenges.

Famous Left-Handed Athletes

While they face some hurdles, lefties have excelled as athletes across many sports:

Name Sport
Phil Mickelson Golf
Rafael Nadal Tennis
Jimmy Connors Tennis
Sandy Koufax Baseball
Ferdinand Marcos Boxing
Kerri Walsh Jennings Beach Volleyball
Mark Spitz Swimming
Lionel Messi Soccer
Ozzie Smith Baseball
Jarome Iginla Hockey

This list highlights just some of the many prominent left-handed athletes who overcame the odds to build impressive careers in their respective sports.

Left Handedness Around the World

Rates of left-handedness vary around the globe based on region and culture:

Highest percentages of lefties

Regions with the most left-handers seem to include:

  • United States (13% lefties)
  • Canada (13% lefties)
  • Northern Europe (12% lefties)
  • Australia (11% lefties)

Lowest percentages of lefties

Areas with fewer left-handed people include:

  • East Asia (3% lefties)
  • South Asia (3% lefties)
  • Middle East (8% lefties)
  • Sub-Saharan Africa (9% lefties)

Reasons for regional differences

The lower rates of left-handedness in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East may be partly cultural. In China and many Muslim countries, left hand use has been strongly discouraged for social and religious reasons.

Persecution and suppression of lefties

Stigma and discrimination against left-handedness has waxed and waned in different societies over time. But there were concerted efforts to suppress left-handed writing in the 18th and 19th century in the West, which may explain the lower rates among older generations.

Left-Handedness in American Culture

Attitudes towards left-handedness in the U.S. have vacillated over the past century:

Early 20th century

Lefties were viewed with suspicion and efforts made to forcibly train children to be right-handed.

Mid 20th century

After recognition that lefties were not inherently disabled, attitudes grew more accepting and lefties were no longer pressured to switch hands.

Late 20th century

Left-handedness became seen in a positive light. Famous left-handed leaders like JFK paved the way for greater leftie acceptance.

21st century

While still a novelty, left-handedness today is widely accepted. Lefties are seen as bringing cognitive diversity and adding to human culture.

Tips for Parents of Left-Handed Kids

Parents who want to support their left-handed children should:

  • Let them use their dominant left hand freely without pressure to switch
  • Make sure they have access to left-handed desks and scissors
  • Teach them to adjust in a right-handed world without shame
  • Celebrate leftie role models to build confidence
  • Consult teachers to meet left-handed learning needs
  • Find left-handed sports equipment and technique training
  • Connect them to other lefties so they don’t feel alone

Adapting as a Left-Handed Adult

Left-handed adults can succeed by:

  • Seeking left-handed ergonomic office products and tools
  • Modifying techniques for right-handed gadgets and appliances
  • Finding specialty instructors tailored for lefties in skilled trades, sports, arts, etc.
  • Connecting with other lefties in clubs, support groups and online communities
  • Cultivating mental flexibility and problem-solving skills
  • Embracing their minority status as an advantage that brings unique perspective

Left-Handedness in Popular Culture

Left-handedness has made many pop culture appearances:

  • The left-handed jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt overcame major handicaps to stardom
  • Left-handed musicians like Paul McCartney and Kurt Cobain gained iconic status
  • Left-handed TV characters like Bart Simpson and Ned Flanders stood out
  • Famous left-handed fictional villains include The Joker, Cruella De Vil and Dr. Doom
  • Left-handedness is linked to mystical powers in the Harry Potter books
  • The Left Hand of God and The Left Hand of Darkness are famous book titles
  • The horror film Mirrors and The Left Banke band tapped leftie mystique

This quirky minority status has made left-handedness intriguing across many creative genres.

Left-Handed Products

A niche industry has emerged creating products tailored for lefties:

Pens and paper

Specialized left-handed pens and paper tablets help adapt writing for leftie needs.


Left-handed scissors with angled blades make cutting more natural for lefties.


Left-handed guitars properly orient the neck, strings and controls for southpaws.

Sports gear

Left-handed golf clubs, baseball gloves, and other athletic equipment serves the minority of lefties.

Kitchen tools

Left-oriented tools like can openers, juicers and knife blocks accommodate lefties in the kitchen.

Left-Handed Awareness Day

To promote sensitivity, August 13th is designated International Left-Handers Day. It aims to:

  • Celebrate left-handedness in culture and achievement
  • Draw attention to leftie adaptation challenges
  • Advocate for accommodating left-handed kids in school
  • Promote availability of left-handed tools and products
  • Provide community and connections for left-handed people

This annual event promotes inclusion, celebrates diversity, and supports left-handed minorities.


While their brains operate a bit differently, left-handed people make up a sizeable and successful minority group. The many accomplished left-handed people throughout history prove that lefties can thrive despite facing adaptation challenges in a right-handed world. While some obstacles remain, cultural attitudes towards left-handedness have grown progressively more positive and accepting in recent decades. With greater awareness and accommodation, left-handers can maximize their development and talents to keep making valuable contributions to human society.

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