Am I Secretly Left-Handed?

(The short answer to the above question is ‘no’, but it made a nice title to my point.)

I’ve mentioned before that I’m eclectic. It should be one of my middle names. Instead, it’s just a character trait that I have to get used to. Maybe I am already, judging by the types of posts I have written. But it definitely has its upsides.

I fall asleep at night thinking of the creative and the scientific, thinking of ways to progress in both and to permeate myself with both.

In what way does this make me ‘left-handed’? Brain neurochemistry.

According to research into neuropathways and their cognitive output – my brain should be active to have the division of metal labour split between both hemispheres equally (this occurs in about 25% of left-handers, but very few right-handers): the left for the analytic and structured logical and eruditely mathematical thinking; the right for creative intuitions and philosophical conjurations.

brain31

Ring any bells? It’s as my father once said: “she jumps from the logic and order of Latin to the intensely creative nature of fiction writing.”

Indeed I do! I can’t help it; it’s how my brain works.

In thinking, I see that being left-handed is not a cause of whichever brain hemisphere is dominant – it’s an effect. Going with the 25% equal brain theory: whilst this uses up more mental effort and energy, it is more likely to lead to a solution to a problem faster – two heads hemispheres are better than one. Perhaps holding a foreign object with the right hand is not helping one discover what said object is; it would be logical to have the left-hand as equally skilled in motor control to feel the object itself.

left-and-right-brain-hemispheres

The existence of ‘handedness’ is a puzzle in itself. Using an Evolutionary approach, one could suggest that those who are left-handed (and thus use both hemispheres of their brain) provide more creative solutions to and have an advantage in combat because of their element of surprise (ie. attacking for the side a right-hander would not expect). This also makes them more likely to become a pack leader. Left-handers also tend to have good visual-spatial skills and the ability to imagine spatial layouts (like me!).

Yet, this fails to explain why not more people are left-handed.

From a Cognitive point of view – and the one I favour over the Evolutionary approach – I believe that having a right-dominated (if we are to assume one side must dominate – see below) means that the neuro-connections between hemispheres must increase for adequate functioning of the brain to occur. A side-effect (!) of this (perhaps) is an increased ability or leaning towards being a polymath. Not a great proportion (10-30%) of the world population are left-handed – though most stick to one discipline or job. Maybe left-handers are more likely to want to venture outwards and turn their searchlight to new projects to keep creativity fresh. It would be interesting to see if there is a significant change in percentages of left-handed people in different countries, though the inclusion of culture will likely muddy the waters, as always.

Certainly, handedness is present at birth (or within only a few months of being born); it is not learnt or conditioned into humans.

unity-is-strength

However, we must remember (as a book I’m reading reminds me) that the two sides of the brain don’t work so exclusively as I set out to suggest. The corpus callosum connects them so that they work together in human functioning.

“There is no reason to believe that the two hemispheres correspond to the distinction between rational vs intuitive thought.” (Gleitman)

I love discovering little gems of science like these. In my novel, Zara states, “I guess I am the odd one of the family. I slept on the wrong side of the womb” and makes a big thing of her left-handed trait. Why? At first I thought it was genetic, but editorial research proved that otherwise (though I have been informed that there are newer studies that might have proven a genetic handiness link *gasp*).

I haven’t yet found out the answer myself. I refuse to believe it’s simply a case of science – when these stories revolve around temporal cause and effect. It’s up to the sequels to open up that explanation to me.

Advertisements

10 thoughts on “Am I Secretly Left-Handed?

  1. I agree that much of the left-brain/right-brain research has been superseded by other research that indicates there is not much inherent difference in the halves of our brains. Most of what our brains need to do involves both sides of the brain and is not lateralized: music is no more a feature of the right brain as mathematics is a feature of the left brain. The right brain does seem more involved in visual processing, but that involves such tedious tasks as reading maps and finding lateral surface area in geometry class as well as more creative work like painting a picture. Similarly, the language works the left brain harder, but language is used for many different purposes–from presenting a budget to the board of trustees to telling a funny story. The theory looked good for a while, but didn’t pan out. It has persisted in the popular imagination because people like neat divisions.

    1. I think, as people, we like there to be a clear answer, a clear division. I was drawn to split-brain theory because of its usefullness in explaining solely the left-right division, but I don’t truly believe it myself. I’d like to ask a child who knows nothing of brain structure from where their motor control or something comes. I know I used to think that our brain operated as one central lump.
      Perhaps split-brain theory is overcomplicating what we should be considering about anatomy.

      Thanks for your thoughts! 🙂

  2. Very interesting! I can’t say anything about using both hemispheres, but the handedness questions are fascinating.

    It wasn’t so long ago that people who were born left-handed were trained out of it and forced to become right-handed (my grandfather was one of them). I’ve often wondered whether that had any effect on brain function in those people– not that it would change someone’s dominant hemisphere, but whether that tendency being frustrated changed anything (and in that case, right-handedness WAS conditioned; he never went back to using his left hand more). Interesting to think about.

    1. Indeed. I think it’s terrible that lefties were considered possessed by the Devil back then. I guess, compared to the freedom we have nowadays, so many more things were restricted and divided in the times of our grandparents. But to force someone out of something they do naturally? It sounds ridiculous in today’s eyes.

      As for the question of change: it’s difficult to say. My first reaction is that I doubt it changed anything in the brain – learning to be right-handed seems to be like learning a skill, eg. piano – but I don’t think I posses enough knowledge to be one to make a proper judgement there.

  3. Alas, if only your reasoning about left-handed warriors was true: but if you’re the only left-handed warrior in a battle full of righties, and you’re having to use a right-handed weapon that isn’t properly balanced for you, well,…you’re in for a world of hurt! Even through the Industrial Era, lefties had a shorter life-expectancy; so many machines were made with right-handed people in mind, lefties were often maimed or killed. And it was thought, for a long time, that lefties were “naturally inferior.” It’s only relatively recently that we lefties have done okay: our finest advantage is the drive-through (I can grab my food or money easily, muhahaha!)

    1. Ah, that’s true. Surely they make left-handed weapons nowadays, though?
      I guess it goes back to the use of ‘sinistra’ as the left-handed term. But where does THAT come from? That left-handers were just different and the Romans didn’t like different people?
      Ah, not in England, where most of the driver-throughs are tailored to right-side driving!

      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  4. I’m a bit ambidextrous. I write with my left hand, but I do a lot of other things with my right, I guess because I learned it that way. I don’t know if this is true, but I’d heard that the right side of your brain controls the left side of your body, so we would always say lefties are the only one’s in their right mind. 😉

    1. Aww, cool. I love ambidexterity! I can’t write [well] with my left, but there are a few things I’m quite handy at with it – weirdly, raquet sports it doesn’t matter which hand I use.
      It’s true. Did you know that feet and eyes and ears all have a dominant, too? Generally, right handers are left footed (I know this from ice-skating, where you need a dominant – though not necessaily stongest – foot to spin and jump off); I’m also left-eyed, according to my achery-playing friend, and right-eared, judging by the way I tend to check pitch in my right ear (though, honestly, it’s quite difficult to tell)!
      Tehe 🙂

Thoughts, comments, replies...

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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s