Ambidexterity: 7 Facts And A Myth

Most people on the planet are right-handed, and only about 10 percent of the people are left-handed. For right-handed people, their right hand is the dominant and preferred hand to perform various activities. Similarly, left-handed people use their left hand predominantly. Interestingly, a handful of people can efficiently use both hands for everyday activities with equal proficiency. Such people are said to be ambidextrous.

Being right- or left-handed and the related brain asymmetry are inborn and under partial genetic control. However, the gene or genes responsible for this are not well studied and documented.1 People who are truly ambidextrous are very rare. Some famous personalities with ambidexterity include Leonardo da Vinci, Pete Rose, Paul McCartney, Benjamin Franklin and Harry Truman. Here are seven facts and a myth about being ambidextrous.

1. Just 1 Percent

Just 1 Percent

Ambidextrous people make up just about one percent of the world’s population.

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If you can write equally well with both hands, then you are one among the one percent. And, in this one percent of multi-handed people, only a handful can perform routine tasks using both hands with equal ease and skill.

2. Ambisinistral

Ambisinistral

Some people use both hands to perform daily tasks but in an inefficient manner. They are not as precise and lack the efficiency displayed by ambidextrous people. Ambidextrous people can use both hands as skillfully as a right-handed person’s right hand. Whereas ambisinistrous people can use both hands, but with a lot less efficiency and accuracy. It is similar to right-handed people using their left hand. The result is clumsy and not tuned to perfection.

3. Symmetrical Brain

Symmetrical Brain

The brain is composed of two hemispheres – left hemisphere and right hemisphere. The right side of the brain controls the left side of our

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body and the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body. So, because of extensively using the right hand, right-handed people display strong left hemisphere dominance. But in the case of ambidextrous and left-handed people, their brain formation is almost symmetric. A gene or two located in some corner of our lopsided brain probably determines which hand prefers to throw a ball and which hand likes to write.2

Medical experts and researchers have determined that left and ambidextrous people possess a greater ability to adapt and function. People with a symmetrical brain are known for their creativity and are more likely to succeed within the society and in life.

4. Learning Difficulties

Learning Difficulties

A study involving 8000 children aged between 7 and 8 years shows that students who were mixed-handed (ambidextrous and ambisinistrous) had more pronounced difficulties in language skills. When the same students turned 15 or 16 years

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old, they showed a higher risk of ADHD symptoms and lower academic performance when compared with both right-handed and left-handed students from the same sample.

Another study published in Neuropsychologia found that left-handed and right-handed people had similar IQ scores. However, people who were truly ambidextrous had slightly lower scores, especially in arithmetic, memory, and reasoning.3

5. Schizophrenia Signs

Schizophrenia Signs

People who are ambidextrous are more likely to possess the LRRTM1 gene, which is linked to schizophrenia. Studies have found that people with schizophrenia are considerably more likely to be ambidextrous or left-handed, than people who are not schizophrenic. Over the years, many studies have associated schizophrenia with increased left-handedness or ambidexterity.4

6. Upper-Hand Advantage

Upper-Hand Advantage

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The ability to use both hands effectively can come in handy, especially in sports. Many forms of sports and competitions such as martial arts, basketball, volleyball, and others require the use of both hands. So, ambidextrous people clearly have an advantage over others. Besides sports, arts and music also often require the use of both hands. Leonardo da Vinci could paint with one hand while writing with the other. Many musicians, especially percussionists, can benefit by being able to use both hands with almost equal ease. Ambidextrous athletes are even harder to find and can prove to be valuable assets to their team.

7. ADHD

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Just as ambidextrous people may be more vulnerable to mental health disorders like schizophrenia, mixed-handed adolescents are also at twice the risk of developing symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Studies show that they are also likely to have more severe symptoms of ADHD than right-handed people. According to some estimates, ADHD affects 3 to 9 percent

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of school-aged children and young people.5

Myth

Some years ago, ambidexterity was thought to be a blessing in disguise. Many people were of the opinion that ambidextrous persons were more talented, successful and as a result, more famous. So, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many people advocated the importance of developing dexterity in both hands and began teaching people to become ambidextrous. However, many studies showed that this practice does not appear to improve brain function, and it may even harm neural development. As a result, this promotion ceased in the mid-20th century as benefits of being ambidextrous failed to materialize. Recent evidence even associates ambidexterity from birth with developmental problems, including reading disability and stuttering.

Fact

The left and the right hemispheres of the brain cannot be interchanged. The left hemisphere is responsible for logical thinking and language processing, and the right hemisphere deals with emotions and handles non-verbal activities. Any attempt to reverse or alter this efficient setup may result in psychological

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problems.6

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