This story originally aired on February 6, 2022.
These may be items found at any gift and gadget store – scissors, pens, notebooks – but these, and dozens of other products in this store, are specially designed for left-handed people.
Take the pastry scoop, with its pointed edge on the left side. “The good side, we like to say!” says Margaret Majua.
You may remember the Leftorium from “The Simpsons”, which sold products specifically for left-handers. But Lefty’s, opened by Majua in San Francisco in 2008, is the real deal.
Correspondent Rita Braver (left-handed herself) asked, “You’re not left-handed?”
“No, no, I can’t even pretend,” Majua replied. “I’m terrible with my left hand.”
No surprises. Left-handers represent only about 10% of the world’s population, and Majua understands that they sometimes feel, well, left behind.
Of course, Braver notes, “We left-handers have greatness in our ranks.” Among them: artists (Michelangelo, Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci), actors (Charlie Chaplin, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt), musicians (Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain), technicians (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg), and eight of the 45 US presidents, including former President Bill Clinton.
“We seem to be overrepresented in some areas,” Clinton said. ” Policy ? Crack safes? I do not know ! »
“Has that ever bothered you? Brave asked.
“No, I don’t think it ever bothered me,” Clinton said. “When I first started studying how the brain works, it made me wonder if that was really a sign of being a little more creative and non-rational in your thinking. And I have no idea. conclusions about it.”
“Even about you?”
“No I do not have any!”
Asked about the “myth” that lefties are more creative, author and journalist David Wolman said: “Oh, let’s kill it, together, here and now, let’s kill it!”
But the is some research shows that left-handed people organize their thoughts and tasks in a different way. “Absolutely, and it’s really mysterious,” Wolman said.
Wolman was so intrigued by the mysteries and myths surrounding left-handers like himself, that he spent a year traveling the world to write a book, “A Left-Hand Turn Around the World,” about the hand often associated with the devil. . The very word “left” comes from the Old English “lyft,” which means weak or worthless.
He added: “The Latin word for left is sinister.”
“This is really mean, right?” Braver said.
“Just put that on the table!” he’s laughing.
“‘Gauche, in French, which also means a bit rude and undesirable?”
Wolman said, “You definitely shouldn’t eat with your left hand in countries where you don’t have utensils.”
Why? “Well, you know, it’s not the cleanest table talk, but the answer to that is that in poorer parts of the world people try to separate the hand they’re eating with and the hand with which they clean themselves.”
“You mean after going to the bathroom?”
And older Americans may still remember the days when left-handed writing was banned: “There were teachers trying to take that behavior away from them,” Wolman said, “and in d “Other parts of the world, the punishments were very severe. For following what is only a natural tendency.”
Left-handed people know all the jokes: a left-handed compliment and, more recently, “swipe left,” meaning reject. Then there is always “two left feet”.
Yet many lefties are great athletes, from quarterbacks (Steve Young, Boomer Esiason) to tennis players (Martina Navratilova, Rafael Nadal).
Sean Doolittle is not “in left field”; he is part of a long line of famous left-handed pitchers (including Whitey Ford, Warren Spahn and Sandy Koufax). In 2019, Doolittle was the closest, helping the Washington Nationals win Game 1 of the World Series. “In baseball, I think [left-handedness] is definitely a good thing,” he said. “I got drafted in the eighth inning when they had a left-handed hitter. And so, I got the eighth-round final, and I finished the ninth-round, and we got the win.”
Braver asked, “One of the advantages seems to be that left-handed pitchers are good, not only at getting left-handed hitters out, but also right-handed hitters, because right-handers aren’t used to hitting people like you that much? “
“Well, it’s just a different look, because in baseball there are way, way fewer left-handed pitchers, so the ball comes in from a different angle,” he said.
But like most humans, left-handed or right-handed, Doolittle is also a bit ambidextrous: “I play golf right-handed, kick with my right foot, I’m pretty good with scissors!” he said. “I just realized this: I swing left, but I swing a golf club right. It’s quite weird.
It’s so weird to be left-handed. Scientists know it’s at least partially genetic. But they have never been able to figure out exactly how it is transmitted. Now, a recent study by scientists from the University of Oxfordusing genetic data from some 400,000 UK residents, revealed important new information:
“We compared DNA sequence differences between a very large group of left-handed people and a large group of right-handed people,” said Dr. Akira Wiberg. “And what that showed was that there were four regions in the genome where the two groups were significantly different on average.”
Professor Gwen Douaud said the study revealed very preliminary links between laterality and the development of certain diseases: “The proportion is slightly higher for schizophrenia in left-handed people. And it is exactly the opposite in the disease So if you’re left-handed, you have a slightly lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease But again…we’re talking about a very, very small effect.
Still, Professor Dominic Furniss said the discovery could provide important insight into the design of new treatments: “What are the important structures in the brain that are not working properly in these diseases, [and] why aren’t they working properly at a very fundamental level?”
The study also found differences between left-handers and right-handers in the brain’s white matter, the material through which messages pass to the central nervous system. “It’s really connecting the different parts of your brain that enable language,” Douaud said.
Braver asked, “Does the study indicate that your results raise the possibility that left-handed people have an advantage when it comes to performing verbal tasks?”
“It’s really a theory we have that needs scientific testing, I would say,” Furniss replied.
Youth psychologist Charlotte Reznick, herself left-handed, welcomes the idea of more scientific research: “It’s helpful to educate others who are right-handed, because it’s really, it’s a bit hard to be left-handed in a right-handed world sometimes,” she said.
But the young left-handers she introduced us to seemed to take everything head on. “I don’t pay attention to that,” Bohdi said.
Even the ink stains: “That’s the only bad thing I noticed about being left-handed,” Izzy said, “is that you always have it on your hand, and that’s very boring.”
Yet one young woman said, “It’s something you should be proud of, even if you’re different.”
Braver asked Reznick, “What would you say to parents who think, ‘Oh my God, my kid would do better because the world is right-handed’?”
“Nope!” she laughed.
And what would left-handed expert David Wolman do, if someone could magically make him right-handed like everyone else? “I would say, ‘Are you crazy? “”, he laughed. “No. Never. No, no, no and no!”
To which Braver added, “Me neither.”
For more information:
- Lefty’s: the left hand shopSan Francisco
- President Bill Clinton, Clinton Foundation
- “A Left Hand Turn Around the World: Chasing the Mystery and Meaning of All Things Southpaw” by David Wolman (Da Capo Press), in Trade Paperback, eBook and Audio formats, available via Amazon and Indiebound
- Follow Sean Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) on Twitter
- Akira Wiberg, Ph.D., University of Oxford
- Professor Gwenaëlle Douaud, University of Oxford
- Professor Dominic Furniss, University of Oxford
- Charlotte Reznick, Psychologist, Children’s Imaging
Story produced by Jon Carras. Publisher: Lauren Barnello.