Not Rare But Not Common EitherWe don't know for certain what percentage of people are left handed. Estimates vary from 2 to 30 percent of any human population. Most estimates hover around 10%, depending upon the criteria used to assess handedness. Twenty-two percent of twins are left-handed. Males are about one and one half to two times more likely to be left-handed than are females. Some animals like cats, badgers, wolves, bears, and lobsters favor their left side. Rats and monkeys favor their right side for handling things.
Left-handed is a loose common classification meaning to write with and/or use the left hand for manual tasks. Left handed people also have a preference for using the left foot for kicking, as well as the preferred foot to begin walking, running and bicycling. A few people are ambidextrous, meaning they can use both hands equally well. Hand preference is usually not evident until children are age 4-6. Psychologists and clinical neurologists are interested in hand preference because it is considered a possible marker for cerebral hemispheric dominance for functions such as speech and language.
Other than the inconvenience and frustration of using tools in our right-handed modern world, there does not appear to be any great disadvantage to being left handed. Many famous and successful people throughout history were left handed. However, there are reports from medical people indicating that left-handers have more physical and mental problems. This is understandable. I suspect the same would be said about right-handers if they were forced to live in a world designed for left-handers! So I think this observation by medical people has led to an unfounded myth.
Some smart people in the commercial world have recognized the value of the left-handed consumer and produced some products for them. One such product is playing cards. Left-handed playing cards are cards where the numbers are printed on all four corners of the card. That way, no matter which way you fan them out, you can see the numbers. Standard cards must be fanned in a right-handed manner for the numbers to be visible.
There are numerous hazards for left-handed people in this right handed world. I need not describe the frightening scene of a left-hander using a right-handed power saw! A less frightening scene is a left-hander using desks and appliances designed for right-handed people. This often causes physical discomfort or even injury. Left-handed surgeons report a sad lack of left-handed surgical instruments and this causes them to use their right hand in many procedures. That would be frightening to me if I was having surgery!
The fact remains that left-handers are a minority group and like most minorities they suffer some social disadvantages as well as frustration and inconvenience in our right handed world. This disparity is recognized by some parents who insist on teaching their children to use the right hand, even when the child is strongly polarized for left handedness. Many people have reported that this unnatural use of the right hand caused poor performance throughout life. In some cases poor performing students were allowed to switch hand usage part way through the schooling years and their performance greatly improved.
Here are some interesting statistics about left-handers:
- They usually reach puberty later than right-handers by four or five months.
- Stuttering and dyslexia often happens to left-handers if forced to learn to write with their right hand.
- They usually draw faces and figures facing to the right side of the page.
- They generally zig, zag, and bump noses when kissing a right-hander. Takes some negotiation to do it smoothly!
The research continues on hand dominance and what it means, if anything, while the world continues to cater to right-handed people. What's a left-hander to do? Maybe just appreciate one's uniqueness and carry on. Just remember to ask a right-hander to use the power saw for you!