Southpaw Struggles

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

We all know about scissors, smudge marks, and those awkward desks -- but what makes life in the 21st century hard for left-handed people? Chris McManus, professor of psychology and medical education at the University College London and the author of Right Hand, Left Hand: The Origins of Asymmetry in Brains, Bodies, Atoms and Cultures, talks about the history of lefties, the science behind it and the modern-day inconveniences southpaws face.


Chris McManus

Comments [12]

art525 from Park Slope

On the other hand (no pun intended) I am left handed and whenever I encounter someone who is left handed I ask them if they can mirror write. By that I mean write completely backward so that if you hold it up to the mirror it looks normal. Leonardo kept all his journals in mirror writing ostensibly so that people coudn't read them but also as I understand it because he was left handed. Whenever I ask a left hander if they can mirror write at first they don't understand but when I show them and they try it they can do it. We can also read signs reflected backwards in mirrors. Also although only 10 per cent of the population is left handed a much larger percentage of artists are. L eft handed people seem to have a natural advantage to draw well. My wife and I are both left handed and both artists. And finally when you talk about words associated with left handedness it goes deeper. The word for right in French is adroit and the word for left is gauche. The word for left in Italian is sinister.

Aug. 07 2013 02:17 PM
kurt flood from nyc

Loved the segments on the left handed and genetics in sports. Who was the person who called in from Park Slope? The radio cut out (I was listening online as I walked the dog) and I missed the call. anyway, great show.

Aug. 07 2013 01:19 PM

There are some advantages.

As a southpaw, you spot the seat in any dining situation that won't interfere with RHers.

You learn to cope via workarounds that helps when tech fails.

A LH MD (an Oxford double first) I worked with could often diagnose difficult patient presentations since she could note anomalies between the complaint, the lab work, the physical examination, e.g.

Aug. 07 2013 12:01 PM

Ask the specialist about ability of lefties toward semi-ambidextrous. E.g., I can write with both hands, but only throw and bat right-handed.

Aug. 07 2013 11:58 AM
Dan K from Washington Heights

Lefties have gotten a little payback with the MTA's Metrocard machines. They're left-handed! I doubt they were designed this way, but a rightie such as me understands a little of what lefties go through every time I refill my Metrocard.

Aug. 07 2013 11:58 AM
dianakrww from Upper West Side

Good show again! Thanks, Jaimie for terrific hosting.
As a relative of many lefties and the daughter of a father forced to use his right, I hope you'll address the advantages of strengthening the non-dominant hand, a skill which probably helps brain chemistry. In addition, there are many individuals who lose the use of their right-hands (temporarily or permanently). Perhaps your expert could address how those individuals cope and what the new technologies have provided.

Aug. 07 2013 11:57 AM
Truth & Beauty` from Brooklyn

Actually, many of the problems lefties encounter are with equipment: musical instruments (cello, guitar, etc.), toothbrushes, turnstiles. But many of the left-handed people I know have certain traits that are quite advantageous. For example, any large accounting firm will have a larger than normal percentage of lefties because they are very good at that sort of math. I have also observed that many lefties are able to write more easily, despite having their hand slide over the previously written text. I've seen them scrawling along at speed in moving vehicles without a hitch.

Aug. 07 2013 11:57 AM
jane from CT

my mother was a lefty but she taught to use her right hand by nuns - I was ambidextrous as a child as well as dyslexic - now right handed mostly, and less dyslexic. I'm wondering if there is a connection between dyslexia and hand preference.

Aug. 07 2013 11:57 AM
Larissa from Montclair

My six-year-old daughter is left-handed, the only one in our family. What can I do to make her life easier?

Aug. 07 2013 11:56 AM
K from BK

I noticed back in grade school most lefties, myself included, would write with the notebook turned 90 degrees side ways to avoid smears. Writing side ways is like a lefty skill.

Aug. 07 2013 11:56 AM
JeremyKB718 from Manhattan

After learning how to write properly (2nd Grade) - everything else seems easy. I feel like being left handed in a right handed world has made me a much better problem solver. I definitely notice things my right handed coworkers never see.
Challenge makes us stronger!

Aug. 07 2013 11:04 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

For me - swiping my metro-card can be a hassle. Ice cream scoops are never fun.

Aug. 07 2013 10:45 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.