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  • Are you left-handed?

  • If so, one in ten people around the world is like you.

  • However, nine out of ten people are right-handed.

  • [1. Human handedness starts in the stone age.]

  • Stone tools suggest that most of our ancestors were, like most of us, right-handed.

  • It's hard to pin down when left-handedness started, but we do have evidence that there were left-handed Neanderthals 500,000 years ago.

  • How do we know this?

  • Well, they were probably eating raw meat, which is tough old stuff.

  • Archaeologists think the Neanderthals would sink their teeth in, and then use a sharp piece of stone to cut the meat near their mouth.

  • Sometimes the stone slipped.

  • And from the direction of the scratches, 10 percent of Neanderthals seem to have held the cutter in their left hand.

  • [2. Left handers, your brains are more bespoke.]

  • For right-handers, it's normally the left side of the brain that's associated with speech and language.

  • What though if you are left-handed?

  • Despite using their left hand for writing, two thirds of left-handers are just like right-handers, in having language in their left brain.

  • But, a third of left-handers have language in the right side of their brainthe opposite of right-handers.

  • Left-handers are much more variable in the ways their brains are organized.

  • In contrast, right-hander's brains are off the peg.

  • Left-handedness is therefore much more of a mixture of strengths and weaknesses, pros and cons coming from having a somewhat differently organized brain.

  • Is your baby sucking its thumb?

  • Psychologist Peter Hepper in Belfast studied several hundred scans where the baby in the womb was seen sucking its thumb.

  • About 90 percent of babies sucked their right thumb.

  • And at 12 years old, almost all of those right thumb suckers were right-handed.

  • Whereas three quarters of the left thumb suckers would become left-handed.

  • Genes are clearly also important.

  • One left-handed parent, and you're more likely to be left-handed yourself.

  • Both parents left-handed, and you're even more likely.

  • About a one-in-four chance.

  • Infants often go through a random chaotic phase where they use the right hand one day, and the left the other, perplexing their parents.

  • By about two years old, their handedness is usually consistent.

  • [4. We could all be a little more ambidextrous if we tried.]

  • If you practise long and hard enough, then you can probably do anything equally well with either hand.

  • Concert pianists are a good example, though it does take dedication.

  • In 1797, the right-handed Admiral Lord Nelson, had his right elbow shattered by a musket ball.

  • The arm was amputated.

  • Within six months though, Nelson had learnt to write fluently with his left hand.

  • But the motivation was there, of course.

  • Professional sports players are also motivated to practice, as it can give an added edge in competition.

  • Footballers train to kick well with either foot, and when practicing they use both feet confidently and well.

  • But under pressure, when the action's hot, they often revert to using their dominant foot.

  • Even if it means taking an extra half step before shooting for goal.

  • Reversing your natural sidedness does come with a cost.

  • You could be almost equally good with each hand or foot, but the price would be so much time practicing that you probably wouldn't do anything else with your life.

  • [5. Many of those famous left-handers were actually right-handed.]

  • The list of famous left-handers seems pretty impressive.

  • Albert Einstein, Beethoven, Bob Dylan, Picasso, Neil Armstrong, Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, Marilyn Monroe, all are claimedon the Internetto be left-handed.

  • And in each case, it's almost certainly wrong.

  • The evidence of left-handedness is often very dodgy indeed.

  • For instance, there's a book with a painting of Beethoven writing with his left hand, the picture has clearly been flipped.

  • There are many reasons why people may wrongly claim that famous individuals are left-handed.

  • Tribal loyalty and the reflected glory of feeling part of the same handedness club are just two of them.

  • Perhaps when it comes down to it, there is a little bit of the left-hander in each of us.

Are you left-handed?

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Right or left-handed? 5 facts about you | BBC Ideas

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    Seraya posted on 2020/06/09
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