Is It True That Left-Handed People Are Smarter?

The belief that left-handed people are smarter than right-handed people has been going around for some time now. There are some studies to show an association between higher IQ and left-handedness; whereas, some studies have revealed right-handed people can actually have an advantage over lefties.(1,2) So, there is some confusion over left-handed people being smarter than right handed people and how true it that? Let’s find out.

Given below is research based data in relation to lefties and higher IQ.

A Brief Glimpse into the History of Left-Handedness

  • Left-handed people, also known as “southpaws” and “lefties” comprise of about 10% of the population.(3,4,5)
  • Some of the famous and smart left-handed people are: French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte; philosopher Aristotle; Renaissance artist Leonardo Da Vinci; baseball legend Babe Ruth; Microsoft founder Bill Gates and former president Barack Obama.(6)
  • Historically, people who are left-handed used to be treated and viewed as outcasts to the point that there was a fear among left-handed of being thought of performing witchcraft in the Middle Ages.(7)
  • There were some scientists who thought that left-handedness occurred as a result of minor damage to the brain during its early development.(3)
  • In the early 20th century, there were many educators in America who forced left-handers to focus on becoming right-handed by re-training their natural tendencies.(8)

Over the years all these myths have been debunked, and there were some claiming that left-handed people are associated with more intelligence. While this claim is interesting, medical literature has revealed no conclusive result as to all of this.

What Does The Research Says About Left-Handed People Being Smarter?

Studies seem to support both the sides of the argument. Given below are some interesting studies, some of which support and some of which are against the thought that left-handedness can mean increased intelligence.

According To Studies, How Smart Are Right-Handed People?

A study done in 2010 in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society showed that right-handed people performed marginally better on cognitive tests in comparison to left-handed people.(9)

Another study done in 2015 in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews researched the five meta-analyses, including the data on over 16,000 people. This study showed no difference in the intelligence quotient of both the right – and left -handed people; however, left-handers seemed to have a slight affinity towards an intellectual disability.(10)

This study also showed that that people who were gifted intellectually or after a typical development were also equally as likely to be left-handed.

Another study in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews suggested that right-handed people had slightly better levels of IQ when compared to left-handers.(11) The scientists also observed that this difference in intelligence level between the right and left-handed people was overall quite negligible.(11)

What is “Intelligence”?(19)

The meaning of Intelligence varies and can be defined in the following ways:

In the branch of psychology, intelligence is defined as having one or a combination of the following characteristics:

Having an increased ability of performing things like problem-solving; abstract reasoning or decision-making; emotional knowledge; ability to learn; adaptation and creativity. One of the common ways to measure the measure of intelligence of an individual is the famous intelligence quotient (IQ) tests.

Studies Showing the IQ of Left-Handed People: Are Lefties Really Smarter?

  • There are some studies that have shown that left-handed people are smarter than right-handed people.
  • A study done in 2007 in the Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology revealed that left-handed participants were more likely to do better on an IQ test when compared to right-handed people.(12) This study also showed that right-handed people took more time for finishing the test.
  • Another study done in 2019 in the journal Brain revealed that there were genetic differences between right-handers and left-handers.(13)
  • In another research, scientists found that the right and left hemispheres of the brain were more coordinated and better connected in areas that involved language in left-handed people.
  • All these features indicate that left-handed people may have better verbal prowess.

What You Should Know About Handedness Or Hand Preference?(14)

Hand preference or handedness is the term used for the tendency to be more skilled and comfortable when using one hand over the other when performing any tasks. While some well known Hand Preferences are right-handedness and left-handedness; there are also a few less common types such as:

  1. Ambidextrousness: A person can perform any task equally well using either hand.
  2. Mixed-Handedness: Depending on the task, the person favors different hands.

Factors That Influence a Person’s Handedness or Hand Preference

According to experts, person’s hand preference is a complex characteristic where various factors influence it such as: environment, genetics and random chance.

  • The development of hand preference occurs before birth and becomes more prominent during early childhood and as one continues to grow up.
  • According to experts, hand preference can depend on the difference in the development between the left and right brain hemispheres. The movement on the left side of the body is controlled by the right hemisphere; whereas, the movement on the right side of the body is controlled by the left hemisphere of the brain.
  • Recent research has also revealed that there can be as much as 40 genes linked to hand preference.
  • Children whose parents are left-handed are more likely to be left-handed when compared to children whose parents are right-handed.(14) As the left-handed people are lesser, many of the children are right-handed even if their parents are left-handed.

Other factors that come into play when determination of hand preference occurs are environment, cultural influences and prenatal exposures.

Are There Any Specific Characteristics Related To Left-Handedness?(15,16)

Some studies have shown that left handed people can be more susceptible for developing certain conditions, such as: schizophrenia; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); Parkinson’s disease; breast cancer; and learning disabilities like dyslexia.

However, there are other studies which have shown that left handed people can have an edge over others in certain areas. Studies have shown that lefties can be at decreased risk for developing arthritis and ulcers and can also recover faster from strokes.

The American Journal of Psychology shows that people who are left-handed are better at divergent thought process, which helps in generating creative ideas.(17)

What is “The Southpaw Advantage”?

Research has shown that people who are left handed excel in sports, and this is referred to as the “southpaw advantage.”

While the fact is left-handed people comprise only about 10% of the general population, they are represented excessively in certain elite sports.(18)

Are You Left Handed or Right Handed? How to Find Out Your Hand Preference?

Hand preference is very personal and subjective. The hand preference gets determined most of the times during the childhood itself and in some cases with the help of any adult in your life, such as your parent, guardian, governess or caregiver.

However, if you are unsure whether you are a righty or a leftie, then you need to ask yourself, which hand you use to perform majority of your activities apart from writing? You may be mixed-handed if you are using one hand for about 50% of your activities and the other hand for the remaining 50% of the time.

Conclusion

There is no denying that there are some interesting differences between left handed and right handed people; however, being smarter or more intelligent is probably not one of them.

Different studies have shown different and mixed results when analyzing this link, leading to the conclusion that left-handed people are not smarter than right-handed people.

References:

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233529472-Effect-of-Handedness-on-Intelligence-Level-of-Students
  2. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-the-international-neuropsychological-society/article/abs/relationship-between-hand-preference-hand-performance-and-general-cognitive-ability/B8C462A0D30D688AFCB71A6B109802E1
  3. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2009/01/brain
  4. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-37423-8
  5. https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/the-big-number-lefties-make-up-about-10-percent-of-the-world/2019/08/09/69978100-b9e2-11e9-bad6-609f75bfd97f_story.html
  6. https://time.com/3107557/top-10-lefties/
  7. https://time.com/3978951/lefties-history/
  8. https://www.press.jhu.edu/news/blog/stuttering-and-%E2%80%9Cretraining%E2%80%9D-left-handed-children-mid-century-us
  9. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-the-international-neuropsychological-society/article/abs/relationship-between-hand-preference-hand-performance-and-general-cognitive-ability/B8C462A0D30D688AFCB71A6B109802E1
  10. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0149763415001712
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28826694/
  12. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233529472-Effect-of-Handedness-on-Intelligence-Level-of-Students
  13. https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/142/10/2938/5556832
  14. https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/understanding/traits/handedness/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2360366/
  16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17598139/
  17. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1422892?seq=1
  18. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsbl.2017.0446
  19. https://www.simplypsychology.org/intelligence.html