Throughout human history, southpaws have had a pretty crappy deal. Beaten in Victorian schools, mistaken for witches by superstitious yokels, associated with the devil since time immemorial … historically, it sucks to be left-handed. Wait, did we say “historically?” Scratch that: it apparently sucks to be a lefty in our rational, modern world as well. After all, it turns out that being born left-handed automatically condemns you to a life of …
10. Lower Pay
Life doesn’t come much less-fair than this. In 2011, researchers at Harvard University analysed several income databases and came to a disturbing conclusion. On average, the left-handed workers analysed earned 10% less than their right-handed counterparts. Think about that for a second: this means you could be highly-educated, a brilliant worker and the freakin’ boss of your chosen field, and you will still be earning lower than you would if you were right-handed. Now, obviously this is just an average and some lefties are raking in gigantic paychecks running companies and what not. But as a taster of the weird prejudices facing southpaws, it’s a near-perfect example. Especially when combined with stuff like …
9. Social Stigma
Put simply, large parts of the world still regard being left-handed as being on par with eating puppies. In whole swathes of Asia, using your left hand to do stuff is one of the most offensive things you can do – in large part because the left hand is the one traditionally used to wipe your ass with. Try moving to Africa and you won’t fare much better. In Ghana, using your left hand to point at something is considered rude, while Islamic North Africa has the sort of suspicion towards left-handers that could seriously screw your social life, and possibly end your actual life. Even in the good ol’ US-of-A, there are still centuries of negative connotations attached to a dominant left hand – cropping up in everything from films to TV to patterns of speech and the minds of judgmental dickweeds.
You’ll be pleased to hear that the myth about left-handers dying young is exactly that: a myth. Unfortunately, the oft-linked story about southpaws suffering more accidents is decidedly non-fiction.
See, a left-handed person’s brain is decidedly worse at processing some information than a right-handed person’s (though better at other stuff). Sadly, one of the areas where the lefty brain kinda falls down is in spatial awareness. The upshot of this is that left-handers are up to 135% (LINK 2) more likely to be in an automobile accident than their right handed counterparts – although this apparently doesn’t affect their overall lifespans (LINK 3). So, to sum up: you southpaws will live just as long as right-handers; you’ll just spend those years filling in more than twice as many insurance claims forms as they do.
Oh man, talk about unfair … Recent studies have shown that being left-handed is as bad for your health as six crates of rum in the morning, only way less fun. According to ABC, the list of maladies lefties disproportionately suffer from is nothing short of jaw-dropping: schizophrenia, alcoholism, delinquency, dyslexia, ulcerative colitis and even bowel-destroying Crohn’s Disease. Other publications have linked left-handedness with breast cancer and other types of freaky-ass nastiness. The cause of this terrifying connection? No one has any idea. All we know is that lefties get sick a heck of a lot more than the rest of us and we’re not really sure why.
What with everything we’ve just read, you could forgive left-handers for being a little scared right now. But science suggests they’ll be more than a little scared: they’ll be freaking terrified.
In 2011, researchers ran an experiment that involved showing Silence of the Lambs to people, and investigating their “fear response.” Unexpectedly, they discovered that lefties experience significantly more intense, longer-lasting fear than the rest of us. It’s true: quizzed on what they’d just seen, left-handed people were more likely to produce disjointed accounts of the film and even exhibit symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. As in, the condition that affects people who return from war or witness their entire families die in a brutal accident – and these subjects got it from watching a scary movie. In short, lefties might not just feel more fear than the rest of us; they might experience it on a scale so vastly disproportionate, that the mere sight of Anthony Hopkins can trigger a mental breakdown.
As a wise puppet once said: “fear leads to anger.” And in the case of southpaws, that appears to be totally true. Aside from experiencing screaming terror on a near-constant basis, left-handed people are also vastly more prone to debilitating rages, along with a whole host of other negative emotions. According to researchers, this is likely down to the left and right hemispheres of a left-hander’s brain being more closely interlinked, a biological hiccup that leaves them open to violent mood swings. There are even a handful of studies suggesting left-handers are more prone to suicide than the average person; doubtless due to them having to watch those healthy, fearless, highly-paid right-handed so-and-so’s, gadding about like they own the place.
Now, we’re not saying that all lefties are automatically miserable, angry basket cases – but the evidence seems to suggest that they have to fight their constant rage urges even harder than we do.
4. Difficulty with Math
At first glance, this one just sounds like crap. We’ve all met left-handed people before – none of them had any trouble adding up; none of them tried to count to ten and got stuck halfway. So what gives?
Well, it’s not so much that left-handedness destroys your mathematical ability; it just makes learning math harder in the first place. A Finnish study of 8,000 children across nine years found that left-handed kids were 30% more likely to have problems in math class than right-handers. However, this is one area where simply being a lefty actually puts you at a bit of an advantage. See, lefties must seem like arithmetic geniuses to their ambidextrous cousins, a staggering 90% of whom found math near impossible. So there you have it, kids. If you use both hands, you may as well just give up now.
Perhaps it’s unsurprising, given that they find learning impossible and all, but left-handed kids are more-likely to suffer from ADHD than their right-handed peers. Again, it goes back to which hemisphere the brain is using to do what. Studies show that right-handers are more likely to have a dominant left hemisphere, while lefties usually have a dominant right. For whatever reason, this processing mix-up works like plugging your iPad into your Windows PC, causing certain areas of your brain to crash. In this case, those associated with not having ADHD freak out, resulting in a higher chance of symptoms. Obviously, this isn’t always – or even usually is – the case; it’s just something lefties are more likely to experience. On the subject of which …
2. Mental Disability
OK, this one’s going to be controversial, so bear in mind it’s just science. It’s not our opinion, and we’re totally not trying to offend anyone. Nonetheless, in 2011 a study into left-handedness reached a slightly freaky conclusion: being left-handed may actually be a form of cognitive impairment. And now for the really controversial part: the study team concluded on this basis that being born left-handed was cognitively equivalent to being born prematurely. Whoa.
The study combed through databases of people in the UK, USA and Australia, and came to the conclusion that left-handed people simply do worse than their right-handed siblings at pretty much everything. In their conclusion, the researchers also claim that the idea of left-handedness being linked to creativity and so on is simply false, thereby destroying any modicum of comfort lefties could otherwise take. Now, obviously this is a single study, but the very fact that a prominent, left-handed scientist could suggest this demonstrates just how unfair the left/right competition is.
1. They’re Cannibals
OK, this is just a theory, but it’s accepted by a number of scientists and also damn creepy. Basically, the idea draws on what we know of “vanishing twins” – a horror-movie process whereby one twin develops faster in the womb and, disgustingly, winds up “eating” the other. This was once thought to be super-rare, but it’s currently suspected that maybe one in eight pregnancies start off as twins. Since one in eight people don’t have a twin, we’ll let you do the math and figure out the true horror behind those numbers.
And now for the real creepy bit: some scientists think most, if not all, left-handers are former twins who devoured their right-handed sibling before birth. In other words, they’re cannibals; bloodthirsty, flesh-eating cannibals in desperate search of right-handed flesh. You know what? Maybe the Victorians had a point about that whole “left-handed equals Satan” thing.
Morris M. lives with his left-handed partner, who would like to point out that she’s never tried to eat him (so far). You can send your helpful and less-than helpful comments to [email protected].