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Literature Review on Hand Dominance

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Published: Wed, 10 Jan 2018

Much research has gone into the study of hand dominance. Strangely, it is common for right and left handed people to use the opposite side of their bodies for activities.5 If you use your left hand, you are right brained, and if you’re right handed, you use the left side of your brain.5 A rare form of handedness is ambidexterity.1 Common things such as scissors, paper and instruments such as guitars have to be specially made for left handed people. Surprisingly, the true meaning of left and right is much more than we think. No theories have yet been accepted as to why some people are left handed and others right handed.3¬†

Right and left handedness is an interesting topic to study. Handedness is the skill of using one hand more than the other, such as right and left handedness.1 Another word for handedness is laterality, or the human preference to use one side of the body over the other.2 Right handedness is the most common form of handedness.6 According to, “The Right Mind”, by Robert Ornstein, only ten percent of the population are left handed. This percentage indicates that left handedness is much less common that right handedness.9 There is no prevailing theory that explains why right handedness is so much more common than left handedness.3 Numerous neurological studies and physiological analysis have stated that right handed people use the left side (or cerebral hemisphere) of the brain, and left handed people use the right side.5 It is not uncommon for right handed people to use their left legs and left handed people to use their right legs when playing sports such as soccer.2

There are different types of handedness such as ambidexterity and mixed- handedness (also known as cross- dominance).1 Ambidexterity is the ability to perform tasks equally with the left and right hand.2 Mixed- handedness is the ability to perform some tasks with one hand and other tasks with a different hand.4 Although ambidexterity can be learned, it is a very rare form of handedness.1 Robert Ornstein indicates that only three percent of humans are ambidextrous.9 Even though ambidextrous people can use both hands, they still demonstrate a strong preference for one or the other. Mixed handedness often appears in the example of using the right hand to write and the left to throw a ball. Because our society often defines ‘handedness’ by which hand is used to write with, mixed handedness is often overlooked. Both ambidexterity and mixed-handedness are rare things to come by. 1

Although America has moved on from the days of disregarding left-handedness, treating left handed people as evil or outcasts, many societies still prefer only to use the right hand. In prior years, people, who were naturally inclined to use their left hand, were forced to write with their right hands.6 Most of the alphabet is written with a preference to right handed people. Because our society is so ‘right hand’ dominant, writing tablets, books and binders are manufactured for right handed writing. So much so that using your left hand may cause smudges on freshly written words. Hindus only use their right hands for respectful activities, as the left hand is reserved for less desirable usage. Muslims believe that on the day of judgment their good deeds will be written on the right side of the book and their bad deeds on the left.3 Many writings show preference to right over left; the bible is not excluded. In Matthew 25: 32-34, 41 it says, “Before him will be gathered all the nations and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the World.’ ‘Then He will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”.10 In Perhaps right handedness being associated with goodness is part of the foundations of our beings as set forth by God. Even in technology right handedness is preferred. Such things as scissors, can openers, and cameras were originally designed only for right handed use. Papers and binders are also made for right handed people. As society matures, designers have re-engineered many items for right or left hand uses.3 There are now such things as left handed scissors. It is interesting to see the effects of handedness in society.

¬†Although we only think of left and right as directions, the meanings of the words are not widely known. Many languages interpret left and right as bad or good. In many areas left means weak, useless, awkward and sinister. On the other hand, right means correct, straight and right.6 Webster’s Dictionary describes left as clumsiness, underhand, inept, and devious.8 The Oxford Dictionary records that left means weaker, awkward, clumsy, ambiguous, double-edged, of doubtful sincerity or validity, ill-omened and sinister.7 Roget’s Thesaurus gives unskillfulness as a synonym for left-handed. These are only a few of the descriptions given.8 As stated before, even the Bible says that the right is blessed and the left is cursed.10 Several languages even associate left with bad things. In French, their word for left, gauche, is translated to awkward. Sinister, is the Latin word for left, which means bad, ominous, and treacherous. The Anglo-Saxon word, lyft, which is where we derive our words left, is translated to mean weak or worthless.6 Meaning left and deceitful, mancino, is the Italian word for left. No ser zurdo, a Spanish idiom, means to be very clever, but a word for word translation means not to be left-handed.8 Words can mean so much more than we realize.

Although many theories have been proposed about how handedness occurs, no single theory has been accepted.3 A new theory says that there really is no dominant hand. Both hands work together. In writing, one hand writes the words while the other grips and holds the paper steady. The Brain Hemisphere Division of Labor theory, proposed by the American Psychological Association, is the most accepted theory. This states that speaking and handiwork both require fine motor skills to accomplish them. In order to work efficiently, the brain uses only one hemisphere to do this, instead of splitting the job into two hemispheres, which would require more work for the brain. Although very popular, no single theory has yet been widely accepted by scientists.1

Handedness, the natural tendency to use your right or left hand, has been studied and observed by many scientists and psychological organizations.1 Only three percent of humans have the amazing ability to function equally with both their right and left sides of the body.9 In years past many children were forced to be right handed.6 Webster’s Dictionary claims that left means devious, clumsy and underhand.8 The Brain Hemisphere Division of Labor theory is the most popular theory as to why some people are left handed and some are right handed.1 The discrimination of left handedness is no longer an issue, but it is still a part of our history.

Works Cited

  1. Wikipedia. “Handedness.” Wikipedia.com. 2 December 2009. 4 December 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handedness
  2. Wikipedia. “Laterality.” Wikipedia.com. 24 September 2009. 4 December 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laterality
  3. Wikipedia. “Right-Handedness.” Wikipedia.com. 19 November 2009. 4 December 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right-Handedness
  4. Wikipedia. “Cross-Dominance.” Wikipedia.com. 14 November 2009. 4 December 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-Dominance
  5. Williams, H. Robert, Stockmyer, John. Unleashing The Right Side Of The Brain. U.S.A: The Stephen Greene Press, Inc., 1987.
  6. Edwards, Betty. The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. New York City, New York: Betty Edwards, 1999.
  7. Brown, Mark. Left Handed: Right Handed. North Promfret, Vermont: David and Charles Inc., 1979.
  8. Springer, P. Sally, Deutsch, Georg. Left Brain, Right Brain. U. S. A: Sally P. Springer and Georg Deutsch, 1993.
  9. Ornstein, Robert. The Right Mind. Orlando, Florida: Robert Ornstein, 1997.
  10. God. The Holy Bible. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2005. Edition: ESV (English Standard Version).

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