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Handedness is a better (faster or more precise) performance or individual preference for use of a hand, known as the dominant hand; the less capable or less preferred hand is called the non-dominant hand.[1][2][3] Men are somewhat more likely to express a strongly dominant left hand than women.[4] Studies suggest that 70–95% of the world population is right-handed.



Handedness developmental timeline[edit]

Infants have been known to fluctuate heavily when choosing a hand to lead in grasping and object manipulation tasks. This is especially shown when observing hand dominance in one versus two-handed grasping tasks. Between 36 and 48 months, variability between handedness in one handed grasping begins to decline significantly. This difference can be seen earlier in bi-manual manipulation tasks. 18-36 month old children showed more hand preference when performing bi-manipulation tasks than simple grasping.[8] The decrease in handedness variability for 36-48 month old children could likely be attributed to preschool or kindergarten attendance. The increase in required single hand grasping activities such as writing or coloring can force children to develop a hand preference.[8]

Developmental theories of handedness[edit]

There are several theories of how handedness develops in individual humans. Occurrences during prenatal development may be important; researchers studied fetuses in utero and determined that handedness in the womb was a very accurate predictor of handedness after birth.[9] In a 2013 study, 39% of infants (6 to 14 months) and 97% of toddlers (18 to 24 months) demonstrated a hand preference.[10]

Division of labor[edit]

One common theory, as to how handedness affects the hemispheres, is the brain hemisphere division of labor. Since speaking and handiwork require fine motor skills, its presumption is that it would be more efficient to have one brain hemisphere do both, rather than having it divided up. Since in most people, the left side of the brain controls speaking, right-handedness predominates. This theory also predicts that left-handed people have a reversed brain division of labor.[11]

Verbal processing in right-handed individuals takes place mostly in the left hemisphere, whereas visuospatial processing is mostly done in the opposite hemisphere. Left-handed individuals have a heterogeneous brain organization in which their brain hemisphere is either organized in the same way as right-handers (but with the hemispheres reversed) or even such that both hemispheres are used for verbal processing. When the average is taken across all types of left-handedness, it shows that left-handers are less "lateralized.[11]

Genetic factors[edit]

Handedness displays a complex inheritance pattern. For example, if both parents of a child are left-handed, there is a 26% chance of that child being left-handed.[12] A large study of twins from 25,732 families by Medland et al. (2006) has indicated that the "heritability of handedness is roughly 24%.[13]

To date, two theoretical single gene models have been proposed to explain the patterns of inheritance of handedness, the first by Marian Annett[14] of the "University of Leicester and the second by Professor Chris McManus[12] of "UCL.

However, the growing weight of evidence from "linkage and "genome-wide association studies suggests that genetic variance in handedness cannot be explained by a single genetic "locus.[15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22] From these studies McManus et al. now conclude that handedness is "polygenic and estimate that at least 40 "loci contribute to determining this trait.[23]

Brandler et al. performed a "genome-wide association study for a measure of relative hand skill and found that genes involved in the determination of left/right asymmetry in the body play a key role in determining handedness.[24] These results suggest the same mechanisms that determine left/right asymmetry in the body (e.g. "Nodal signaling and "ciliogenesis) also play a role in the development of brain asymmetry (handedness is an outward reflection of brain asymmetry for motor function).

Epigenetic factors[edit]

"Twin studies indicate that genetic factors explain 25% of the variance in handedness, while environmental factors explain the remaining 75%.[25] While the molecular basis of handedness "epigenetics is largely unclear, Ocklenburg et al. 2017 found that asymmetric "methylation of "CpG sites plays a key role for "gene expression asymmetries that have been related to handedness.[26][27]

Prenatal hormone exposure[edit]

Four studies have indicated that individuals who have had in-utero exposure to "diethylstilbestrol (a synthetic estrogen-based fertility drug) were more likely to be left-handed over the clinical control group. Diethylstilbestrol animal studies "suggest that estrogen affects the developing brain, including the part that governs sexual behavior and right and left dominance".[28][29][30][31]

Prenatal vestibular asymmetry[edit]

Previc, after reviewing a large number of studies, found evidence that the position of the fetus in the final trimester and a baby's subsequent birth position can affect handedness. About two-thirds of fetuses present with their left "occiput (back of the head) at birth. This partly explains why prematurity results in a decrease in right-handedness. Previc argues that asymmetric prenatal positioning creates asymmetric stimulation of the vestibular system, which is involved in the development of handedness. In fact, every major disorder in which patients show reduced right-handedness is associated with either "vestibular abnormalities or delay,[32] and asymmetry of the "vestibular cortex is strongly correlated with the direction of handedness.[33]


Another theory is that "ultrasound may affect the brains of unborn children, causing higher rates of left-handedness in children whose mothers received ultrasounds during pregnancy. Research on this topic suggests there may exist a weak association between "ultrasound screening (sonography used to check on the healthy development of the fetus and mother during pregnancy) and left-handedness.[34]



In his book Right-Hand, Left-Hand, Chris McManus of "University College London argues that the proportion of left-handers is increasing and left-handed people as a group have historically produced an above-average quota of high achievers. He says that left-handers' brains are structured differently (in a way that increases their range of abilities) and the genes that determine left-handedness also govern development of the language centers of the brain.[35]

Writing in "Scientific American, McManus states that,

Studies in the U.K., U.S. and Australia have revealed that left-handed people differ from right-handers by only one IQ point, which is not noteworthy ... Left-handers’ brains are structured differently from right-handers’ in ways that can allow them to process language, spatial relations and emotions in more diverse and potentially creative ways. Also, a slightly larger number of left-handers than right-handers are especially gifted in music and math. A study of musicians in professional orchestras found a significantly greater proportion of talented left-handers, even among those who played instruments that seem designed for right-handers, such as violins. Similarly, studies of adolescents who took tests to assess mathematical giftedness found many more left-handers in the population.[36]

Conversely, Joshua Goodman found that evidence that left-handers were overrepresented amongst high end of the cognitive spectrum was weak due to methodological and sampling issues in conducted studies. Goodman also found that left-handers were overrepresented at the low end of the cognitive spectrum, with the mentally disabled being twice as likely to be left-handed compared to the general population, as well as generally lower cognitive and non-cognitive abilities amongst left-handed children.[37]

Early childhood intelligence[edit]

Nelson, Campbell, and Michel studied infants and whether developing handedness during infancy correlated with language abilities in toddlers. In the article they assessed 38 infants and followed them through to 12 months and then again once they became toddlers from 18–24 months. What they discovered was that when a child developed a consistent use of its right or left hand during infancy (such as using the right hand to put the pacifier back in, or grasping random objects with the left hand), it was more likely to have superior language skills as a toddler. Children who became lateral later than infancy (i.e., when they were toddlers) showed normal development of language and had typical language scores.[38] The researchers used "Bayley scales of infant and toddler development to assess all the subjects.


Lower-birth-weight and complications at birth are positively correlated with left-handness.[39]

A variety of neuropsychiatric and developmental disorders like "autism spectrum disorders, "depression, "bipolar disorder, "anxiety disorders, "schizophrenia, and "alcoholism has been associated with left- and mixed-handedness.[40][41]

A 2012 study showed that nearly 40% of children with "cerebral palsy were left-handed,[42] while another study demonstrated that Left-handedness was associated with a 62 percent increased risk of "Parkinson's Disease in women, but not in men.[43] Another study suggests that the risk of developing "multiple sclerosis increases for left-handed women, but the effect is unknown for men at this point.[44]

Left-handed women have a higher risk of "breast cancer than right-handed women and the effect is greater post-menopausal.[45]

At least one study maintains that left-handers are more likely to suffer from "heart disease, and in a "cardiovascular context, are more likely to have reduced longevity.[46]

Left-handers are more likely to suffer bone fractures.[47]

One "systematic review concluded: "Left-handers showed no systematic tendency to suffer from disorders of the immune system".[48]

If handedness is entirely genetic, these health problems mean left-handness could be eliminated through natural selection. However, left-handers enjoy an advantage in fighting and sports increasing their likelihood of reproduction.[49]


In a 2006 U.S. study, researchers from "Lafayette College and "Johns Hopkins University concluded that there was no statistically significant correlation between handedness and earnings for the general population, but among college-educated people, left-handers earned 10 to 15% more than their right-handed counterparts.[50]

More recently, in a 2014 study published by the "National Bureau of Economic Research, "Harvard economist Joshua Goodman finds that left-handed people earn 10 to 12 percent less over the course of their lives than right-handed people. Goodman attributes this disparity to higher rates of emotional and behavioral problems in left-handed people.[37]

Left-handedness and sports[edit]

Interactive sports such as table tennis, badminton and cricket have an overrepresentation of left-handedness, while non-interactive sports such as swimming show no overrepresentation. Smaller physical distance between participants increases the overrepresentation. In "fencing, about half the participants are left-handed.[51]

Other, sports-specific factors may "increase or decrease the advantage left-handers usually hold in one-on-one situations:

In sports in which one competitor's performance does not affect another's (except indirectly through subjectively perceived psychological pressure), a particular hand preference confers little or no advantage. "Golf and "miniature golf feature occasional situations when obstacles on one side of the ball but not the other interfere with the stance or swing of a right- or left-handed player but not the other's. Even so, the "favoritism" on any given course is probably minimal, especially at high levels of play: a layperson such as the owner of a small miniature golf business may, when placing obstacles, assess the results from only the perspective of his or her handedness, such that more courses would be made difficult for right-handers than for left-handers. However, a thoughtful designer—especially a professional in the field—is likely to ensure game balance by adding handedness-specific obstacles in equal numbers and in places of similar tactical importance.["citation needed]

Gender ratio and handedness[edit]

According to a meta-analysis of 144 studies, totaling 1,787,629 participants, the best estimate for the male to female odds ratio was 1.23, therefore 23% more men are left-handed. 11% of men and 9% of women would be approximately 10% overall, at a 1.222 male to female odds ratio.[4]["clarification needed]

Sexuality and gender identity[edit]

A number of studies examining the relationship between handedness and sexual orientation have reported that a disproportionate minority of homosexual people exhibit left-handedness,[59] though findings are mixed.[60][61][62]

A 2001 study also found that children who were assigned male at birth but have non-traditional "gender identities were more than twice as likely to be left-handed than a clinical "control group (19.5% vs. 8.3%, respectively).[63]

"Paraphilias (atypical sexual interests) have also been linked to higher rates of left-handedness. A 2008 study analyzing the sexual fantasies of 200 males found "elevated paraphilic interests were correlated with elevated non-right handedness".[64] Greater rates of left-handedness has also been documented among individuals who have "pedophilia.[65][66][67][68]

A 2014 study attempting to analyze the biological markers of "asexuality asserts that non-sexual men and women were 2.4 and 2.5 times, respectively, more likely to be left-handed than their heterosexual counterparts.[69]

Social stigma and repression of left-handedness[edit]

Many tools and procedures are designed to facilitate use by right-handed people, often without even realizing difficulties placed on the left-handed. John W. Santrock has written, "For centuries, left-handers have suffered unfair discrimination in a world designed for right-handers."[70]

McManus noted that, beginning at the time of the "Industrial Revolution, workers needed to operate complex machines that were almost certainly designed with right-handers in mind. This would have made left-handers more visible and at the same time appear less capable and more clumsy. During this era, children were taught to write with a "dip pen. While a right-hander could smoothly drag the pen across paper from left to right, a dip pen could not easily be pushed across by the left hand without digging into the paper and making blots and stains.[71]

Moreover, apart from inconvenience, left-handed people have been considered unlucky or even malicious for their difference by the right-handed majority. In many European languages, including English, the word for the direction "right" also means "correct" or "proper". Throughout history, being left-handed was considered negative. The Latin adjective sinister means "left" as well as "unlucky", and this double meaning survives in European derivatives of Latin, including the English word "sinister" (only when referring to the bearer's left of a coat of arms).

There are many negative connotations associated with the phrase "left-handed": clumsy, awkward, unlucky, insincere, sinister, malicious, and so on. A "left-handed compliment" is considered one that is unflattering or dismissive in meaning. In "French, gauche means both "left" and "awkward" or "clumsy", while droit(e) ("cognate to English direct and related to "adroit") means both "right" and "straight", as well as "law" and the legal sense of "right". The name "Dexter" derives from the Latin for "right", as does the word "dexterity" meaning manual skill. As these are all very old words, they would tend to support theories indicating that the predominance of right-handedness is an extremely old phenomenon.

"Black magic is sometimes referred to as the ""left-hand path".

Until very recently in "Taiwan (and still in "Mainland China, "Japan and "both North and South Korea), left-handed people were strongly encouraged to switch to being right-handed, or at least switch to writing with the right hand. Due to the importance of "stroke order, developed for the comfortable use of right-handed people, it is considered more difficult to write legible Chinese characters with the left hand than it is to write Latin letters, though difficulty is subjective and depends on the writer.[72] Because writing when moving one's hand away from its side towards the other side of the body can cause smudging if the outward side of the hand is allowed to drag across the writing, writing in the "Latin alphabet might possibly be less feasible with the left hand than the right under certain circumstances. Conversely, right-to-left alphabets, such as the Arabic and Hebrew, are generally considered easier to write with the left hand in general.["citation needed] Depending on the position and inclination of the writing paper, and the writing method, the left-handed writer can write as neatly and efficiently or as messily and slowly as right-handed writers. Usually the left-handed child needs to be taught how to write correctly with the left hand, since discovering a comfortable left-handed writing method on one's own may not be straightforward.[73][74]

International Left-Handers Day[edit]

International Left-Handers Day is held annually every August 13.[75] It was founded by the Left-Handers Club in 1992, with the club itself having been founded in 1990.[75] International Left-Handers Day is, according to the club, "an annual event when left-handers everywhere can celebrate their sinistrality (left-handedness) and increase public awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of being left-handed."[75] It celebrates their uniqueness and differences, who are from seven to ten percent of the world's population. Thousands of left-handed people in today's society have to adapt to use right-handed tools and objects. Again according to the club, "in the U.K. alone there were over 20 regional events to mark the day in 2001- including left-v-right sports matches, a left-handed tea party, pubs using left-handed corkscrews where patrons drank and played pub games with the left hand only, and nationwide 'Lefty Zones' where left-handers' creativity, adaptability and sporting prowess were celebrated, whilst right-handers were encouraged to try out everyday left-handed objects to see just how awkward it can feel using the wrong equipment!"[75]

In animals[edit]

"Kangaroos and other "macropod "marsupials have a left-hand preference for everyday tasks in the wild. ‘True’ handedness is unexpected in marsupials because, unlike "placental mammals, they lack a "corpus callosum. Left-handedness was particularly apparent in the red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) and the eastern gray kangaroo (Macropus giganteus). Red-necked (Bennett’s) wallabies (Macropus rufogriseus) preferentially use their left hand for behaviours that involve fine manipulation, but the right for behaviours that require more physical strength. There was less evidence for handedness in "arboreal species.[76] Studies of dogs, horses, and domestic cats have shown that females of those species tend to be right-handed, while males are lefties.[77]

See also[edit]



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