(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.
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.
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.
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.