Enter Left

July 11, 2008 | 1 Comment

Category: lefthanded

Three out of four of our last presidents were left-handers. If Obama is elected, it will be four out of five.

Researcher Marian Annett hypothesizes that there is a gene for being right-handed and a gene for being nonhanded or random-handed. One could also say that most random-handed people have a gene for being right-handed. Studies vary, but most cultures show around 10% left-handers.

By Annett’s calculations, about 18.5% of modern populations retain this random-handedness proclivity, with about half of those displaying left-handedness and about half being right-handed. Various degrees of ambidexterity are mixed in.

Random-handedness is genetically inherited, usually revealing close relatives with that same feature. Various social and biological interventions can mask these relationships. My sister was left-handed, broke her arm in grammar school, and ended up writing with her right. Older folks were often instructed to write with their right hand regardless of their natural inclinations. This instruction was common in Catholic schools. Early brain damage or uterine trauma can compel a person to switch hemisphere and, for example, rely upon the left hemisphere for language instead of the right or both, making them left-handed. These folks are not genetically random-handed.

Among the many prejudices and divisive beliefs we’ve been giving up over the two hundred years is the disparagement of left-handers. These biases have built into our language what with sinister, sinistral and the Left being closely associated. In some cultures, one only wipes one’s butt with the left hand.

The random-handed are unique. They display an older genotype and are perhaps the bridge to understanding autism and conditions characterized by maturational delay. Still, they are not easily pigeon-holed, and they often display both remarkable physical and verbal prowess and sometimes impairments in the same areas. Presidents and stutterers are often left-handed.

The random-handed offer clues to both our evolutionary origins and our society’s future path. With another possible left-handed president, perhaps it’s time we explored this once vilified, re-emerging class.


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This entry was posted on Friday, July 11th, 2008 at 6:17 am and is filed under lefthanded. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
1 Comment so far

  1. Carole Seawert on July 28, 2008 1:57 am

    You mention that stutterers are often left handed. When the older generations were prevented from writing with their left hands, this could leave them with a stutter. That’s what happened to Queen’s father, George VI: he was a left forced to write with his left hand and was also a stutterer.

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