Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lucky Leftie?

Have I mentioned lately how much I love science? If not, I friggin’ love science! It makes me happy knowing that people out there are constantly doing research to learn more about why we are the way we are and how we have evolved over time.

I recently found an article from Northwestern University to be particularly interesting. It is about the relationship between your levels of cooperation and competitiveness and how that can be related to your handedness (whether you are right or left handed). This study that the article discusses revolves around the idea that as human beings evolved and survived, there was a great need for high levels of cooperation. This meant that being the same played a huge part in survival because being similar made life easier. To coordinate hunting expeditions and build safe living structures meant that we had to work together to make them successful. Items such as weapons and tools needed to work for everyone so survival of the fittest made us mostly all right handed to accommodate this.

The 10:1 ratio of righties to lefties in the general population hasn’t changed in the past 5,000 years and it doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to make any adjustments. But now these researchers are finding that the more competitive a group of people to be, that the number of left handed people within that group dramatically increases. Left-handed people seem to have an edge when it comes to being competitive because they have to approach challenge/life a bit differently. Lefties have been shown to use more areas of the brain than right handed people because they have been living in a right-handed world their entire lives and have to adapt to survive within it.

It appears that it works in our advantage though! When everyone else is ducking one way, we’re throwing you off by ducking the opposite way and coming in for the win. This study found that in some sports, particularly professional baseball players and boxers, that the ratio of righties to lefties is up in the 1:1 margin. That’s quite a significant change from 1:10.

Random Trivia Factoid: Did you realize that 5 out of the last 7 American Presidents have been left handed? What does that tell us? This hugely competitive job is seemingly being slowly taken over by left-handed people.

I’ve been talking to some people about this topic and have now heard from a couple people that they know left-handed people who seem to be very lucky individuals (simply meaning that they have good luck.) You know, the kind of people who find money on the street or score the last brownie in the lunch room. That kind of luck. Are lefties lucky?

So I have been sitting back for a few days and allowing this information sink into my brain. Many years ago while waiting in chiropractor’s office, I read this super interesting article about lucky people. There are many theories as to why some people are luckier than others, such as good timing and personality traits such as seizing the opportunity when it presents itself. But there are two things that I distinctly remember reading in this article. The first is that people who seem luckier than the rest of us tend to do things “differently”, meaning that they are more likely to take different driving routes home or order something different every time they go to a restaurant. Lucky people don’t live monotonous lives and don’t always go with the regular flow of society. Shouldn’t this mean that left handed people have a better chance at having higher levels of luck than the rest of society since “going with the flow” doesn’t really work a lot of the time when you're a leftie? Plus we’re apparently extra competitive so one might think that this would ante up our luck levels at least marginally.

The second thing was that lucky people are more likely to be willing to lose or fail than miss out on the opportunity of trying. Meaning, lucky people are risk-takers. Sounds a bit strange, but if you relate that to left handed people you have to keep in mind that we are always ready to fail! We pick up every pair of sewing scissors just waiting for the inability to cut through a piece of paper. We know that there is a huge change that we’re going to smudge the ink when we write something and the chain attached to pens at the bank are never (ever) long enough to let us write anything anyway! Even if the chain is long enough and the ink doesn’t smudge, it’s basically impossible to write anything if the paper is within a binder. We’ve been set up for failure since birth!

Then I came to another simple hypothesis. It’s been proven that left handed people are more likely to have higher IQs than those who are right handed (once again because of the different way the brain is used). Wouldn’t any kind of “luck” be simply connected to the increased intelligence? Successful people aren’t successful based on luck. They are successful based on being intelligent and coming up with ideas that are useful to society and thus making them rich and powerful.  Some people are useless (c’mon…they are) and these people seem to be the ones saying, “I just have no luck when it comes to…(jobs, women, men, cars, gambling...etc).” Maybe luck is more based on making good decisions. 

But then again, left-handed people also are more prone to getting scared more easily, PTSD, anger, embarrassment and becoming alcoholics. Perhaps we’re just constantly carefully calculating ways to avoid these things so that we do not become useless members of society. No one likes a scared alcoholic who throws a pair of scissors across the room in uncontrollable anger. 


  1. Aren't lefties also more prone to accidents, illnesses, and disease as well? It's hard out there for a south paw.

  2. Yeah, it's tough living in a right-handed world. I didn't know about the illness/disease thing but I am not surprised.