via Science of People: In today’s “did you know?”, we’re exploring the science of handedness. Watch the video or read below to find out more:

Researchers believe that our handedness (tendency to be right or left-handed) is determined in the womb. The majority of humans are right-handed (a whopping 85-90%) and this makes sense– our right hand is controlled by the left hemisphere of the brain which is responsible for speech and writing. The right hemisphere of the brain controls the left hand and is associated with creativity and imagination. Does this mean left-handed people are more creative than right-handed? It’s possible. Let’s dive into the science of handedness a bit more:

The Science:
Scientists at the Universities of Oxford, St Andrews, Bristol and the Max Plank Institute in Nijmegen, the Netherlands have researched how handedness and our genetic code align. Their research revealed that a specific network of genes are likely associated with determining whether someone will be right- or left-handed. This determination happens in the womb before a baby is even born. Scientists have isolated the gene PCSK6, a gene “intimately involved in turning a spherical ball of equally oriented cells into an embryo that has discernible left and right sides.” According to an article in Time,

Researchers do offer caution that genes may only be one component of dexterity. The role of behavior and training may also contribute to which hand a child prefers, another example of the fascinating combination of nature and nurture.

The Brain:
Our brains are designed in an asymmetrical manner meaning that the right and left sides are responsible for different things. Just like you may be responsible for dishes and your partner is responsible for taking out the trash, the right hemisphere of the brain controls most emotional functions and the left hemisphere manages many thinking and intellectual skills.

We learned above that the use of the left hand is managed by the right side of the brain, the moods and emotional side. One study found that lefties may be more prone to depression and negative emotions since this side of their brain is activated more regularly.

Another study furthered this idea of our handedness and brain being interconnected. Researchers asked a group of right-handed participants to clench their right fist before memorizing a group of words. Remember, movement of the right hand signals the left side of the brain to ‘turn on’. These participants performed significantly better in recalling the memorized words than their counter-parts, a group of right-handers who clenched their left fists before memorization.

Dr. Daniel Geschwind, professor of psychiatry, neurology and human genetics at the University of California, Los Angeles says that while the majority of right-handers process language in the left-hemisphere, lefties have an equal distribution of this skill across their brains. This lack of asymmetry leads to more random and less specified skills. This wide distribution has a health benefit– if a left-handed person has a stroke on the left side of the brain (the language processing side), they tend to recover more quickly since their language processing skills are dispersed across the brain. There is a disadvantage, however. “Having more distributed language abilities probably makes the system more complicated, so it may increase the susceptibility to developmental [abnormalities] and neurodevelopmental disorders,” says Geschwind.

This begs a chicken or the egg type of question. Is the brain’s tendency toward asymmetry based on handedness or does the layout of the brain veer someone toward a preference? Geschwind believes this all may happen together: “Left-handedness is a marker for how the brain is organized in a more symmetric than less symmetric way.”

Caveman Hands:
Right-hand majority isn’t a trending topic. As humans, we’ve been using our right-hand as the dominant choice for over 500,000 years. And interestingly, this fact is determined by caveman teeth.

Dental records of our hunting and gathering ancestors were studied by researchers at the University of Kansas. They found that when our great, great, great- (and on and on) grandfathers processed animal hides, they would hold one side of the carcass in their hand and the other in their mouth. Scientists reviewed the wear and tear on fossilized caveman teeth to determine the dominant hand used.

According to researcher David Frayer, Ph.D, “All you need to have is a single tooth, and you can tell if our assumptions are right — if the individual is right- or left-handed.” They found that similarly to today, most of the records showed a dominant right hand.

And how about other species? Research has found that other mammals, including gorillas and chimpanzees exhibit the use of a dominant hand. David P. Carey, a neuropsychologist at Bangor University in the United Kingdom says that even dogs have a preferred paw. “Your dog is one-pawed,” said Carey. “If you force a dog to reach for a toy through an aperture, it will tend over many trials to use one paw over the other.”

Famous Lefties:
Lefties or ‘southpaws’ may be in the minority, but there are several famous ones you may have heard of. President Obama, anyone? Yep, he’s a leftie. Several past Presidents made the list as well:

  • Bill Clinton
  • George H.W. Bush
  • Gerald Ford
  • Harry S. Truman
  • James A. Garfield

Some of your favorite musicians and actors may be the elusive leftie too. Here’s a few we found:

  • Kurt Cobain
  • Judy Garland
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Paul McCartney
  • Tim Allen
  • Carol Burnett
  • Robert DeNiro
  • Nicole Kidman

And check out this awesome infographic on left-handers (click to expand):

via Reader’s Digest: Only 10 percent of the population is left-handed. While there may not be many of them, being left-handed sure does come with some surprising perks!

Being a lefty may help you succeed in leadership roles

“When I was at Columbia Law School, which is one of the most elite schools in the country, we noticed that a large proportion of the class was left-handed,” says Robert S. Herbst a left-handed attorney, wellness expert, motivational speaker, and powerlifter. “This made sense as left-handed people are right brained meaning they are more creative, analytical, verbal, and have better language skills, all of which are traits necessary to being a good lawyer.” Herbst was also an Eagle Scout: “I have met a number of left-handed Eagle Scouts, including Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire and former New York City mayor. Perhaps being right brained and left-handed also gave us the leadership ability, discipline, and ambition to excel even at an early age.”

Lefties earn more

In a study published in Laterality, Christopher Ruebeck, PhD, an economist at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, found that lefties earn slightly more money than their right-handed peers who work at the same jobs. These results were most pronounced in left-handed college-educated men, Ruebeck says, who, on average, earn 15 percent more than righties. Here are other myths about lefties you need to stop believing.

Lefties often learn to be ambidextrous

“Over the years I have found myself learning to be ambidextrous simply because I had to,” says Ernestine Sclafani, a public relations specialist in Los Angeles. “The world is geared towards being right-handed: buttons on jackets, jeans, doorways, desks in school.” Certain activities also were made easier by switching the hands. “Learning to play golf was much easier being a right-handed person than left,” she says. Today, there’s more awareness of lefties and more products and activities that accommodate them. But being ambidextrous is certainly a good skill to have.

Left-handedness lets you stand out

“I remember back in high school a friend had told me that being a lefty was going to be made into a handicap,” says Danielle Becker, a mixed media artist and the founder of Leftys Right Mind. “Besides being the only one in class with the side of their hand completely covered in pencil, I never felt being a lefty inhibited me from excelling in my work, let alone hold me back in life. In fact, I believe it sets me apart from the rest. I cherish the fact that I am a lefty. My left hand has guided me over the years to find my passion and to be able to live my dream as a professional designer.” She credits her creativity—her work as an artist—to being a lefty. “I thrive in the creative world. My wide array of talents across multiple platforms is rooted in (lefty) hands-on art making and a commitment to unbound creativity.”

It’s a great conversation starter

“I’m a lefty and find that, strangely, people often notice,” says Ingrid Hansen, a publicist at Launch Media. “It’s a great conversation starter when they do.” Also, she finds that many lefties are introverted, which actually led her to her career. “As an introvert, I’ve created a successful company that coaches other introverts, including lefties, on speaking to the media.” Find out other benefits of being an introvert.

While it’s not always easy, the challenges can make you stronger

“While I cherish my creativity, I do find it difficult to live in a right-handed world,” says Kim Murphy, a left-handed author in Batesville, Virginia. “For instance, when I go to the library for research, there are rarely any computers set up for lefties. Garden equipment, such as weed whackers, can be downright dangerous for me to use. Still, I love being different.” Having to overcome obstacles, and always challenging yourself, ultimately makes you a stronger person. She, too, credits her left-handedness to her creative spirit. “Because I’m an author, I have met many authors and artists over the years and a higher percentage of the artists I have met are left-handed.”

Lefties are more likely to think outside the box

According to the American Psychological Association, 10 percent of the population is left-handed. And according to a study in the Journal of Mental and Nervous Disease musicians, painters and writers were significantly more likely to be left-handed. Brain hemisphere specialist Michael Corballis, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, points out that just as information is prone to errors as it traverses between brain hemispheres, it’s also more likely to encounter novel solutions. Righties might dismiss an idea as too radical, but lefties might be able to develop a solution that a right-hander’s brain would skip right over. “It’s good to have a few people in any society who think outside the square,” Corballis says. Handedness aside, these are 10 things all highly creative people have in common.

You are in good company with these left-handed presidents

There have been eight presidents who have been lefties, including James A. Garfield, Herbert Hoover, Harry S Truman, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.

You’re likely to find lefties in your extended family tree

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, multiple factors including genetics, environment, and chance determine whether a person is left-handed. It was initially thought that a single gene controlled handedness, however recent studies suggest that multiple genes, perhaps up to 40, contribute to this trait. Each of these genes likely has a weak effect by itself, but together they play a significant role in establishing hand preference. However, because the overall chance of being left-handed is relatively low, most children of left-handed parents are right-handed (even though there’s a greater chance that left-handed parents have left-handed kids). If you look far enough in your family tree, you may be surprised to find a number of lefties there. This is the real reason some people are left-handed, according to science.

You have a decreased risk for some health concerns

In a study published in Laterality, it was found that left-handed people have a lower prevalence of arthritis and ulcers. It probably doesn’t have to do with your handedness, though. Researchers believe it’s related to the underlying DNA that creates left-handedness––the genes that are associated with lefties. So if you’re ever teased for being a lefty, remind yourself that they have a higher chance of developing those painful conditions.

You’re a better GPS

Do you or your left-handed friends have a knack for reading maps, remembering parking spaces, and figuring out how to get from Point A to Point B? According to a study, researchers observed that left-handed people showed a lower rate of error in a spatial orientation test than righties. Spatial skills will always be important (yes, even in the age of the GPS)––you never know when you and your right-handed counterparts will get lost in the woods and you’ll be able to save the day.

You bounce back more quickly from injuries

If you suffer from a stroke or other brain-related injuries, research shows that left-handed people recover faster. While we hope nobody has to go through anything as traumatic as a brain injury, it’s nice to know that you could potentially have an easier time recovering. The reasoning? The cognitive functions are spread out in the brains of lefties, which means that in theory, when you have a stroke (which is typically concentrated to a small area of the brain), less of your cognitive functioning will be affected.

Lefties are more competitive

Everything is a competition nowadays, so being competitive will get you far. In a study done at Northwestern, it was found that lefties are more competitive than cooperative. Take this example from the study: “Cooperation favors same-handedness—for sharing the same tools, for example. Physical competition, on the other hand, favors the unusual. In a fight, a left-hander in a right-handed world would have an advantage.” So, being a leftie could give you a leg up on physical competitions like certain sports, but the jury’s still out on mental competitions. This is the real reason a person is right-brained or left-brained, according to science.

Lefties are better at video games

Before you ask: No, it doesn’t have to do with the competition thing. Research from Australia National University showed that left-handed people outperform right-handers in processing a large amount of information at a fast rate…like shooting enemies, dodging zombies, and avoiding GTA car collisions. These findings can be extended past the computer screen, too. Like, you’re probably better at absorbing the list of things your mother told you to do during your last phone call than your righty counterparts. (We’re joking, of course, but this skill is certainly a valuable asset)

You may have better self-control

As it turns out, left-handers are shown to have better self-control than right-handers. They don’t have any trouble passing up those brownies or refraining from lashing out at a coworker, two things that can be very difficult sometimes. A study in JECN found that lefties have better “inhibitory control,” which regulates the way we control ourselves, than righties. That will come in handy! (Pun intended)