Lefties have been around for as long as there have been humans. Currently 1 in 10 of us is left-handed so you are bound to know at least one.
In ancient Chinese tradition, the yin, left side of the body, and yang, the right side of the body, are thought to be balanced energies when in harmony. So then what does that mean for lefties and righties? A disharmony?
Actually, quite the opposite.
Let’s assume that a person is left-handed. When the left-handed person goes to write something down on a piece of paper the left hand naturally picks up the pen. It’s not a decision each time, as in “hmm…should my left hand write this or my right hand?” Rather, the process is completely automatic. The left hand picks up the pen and the right hand supports and holds down the paper.
Same works for the opposite hand. Anytime a right-handed person is doing something with his right hand, the left hand waits like an attentive buddy to fill in the gap if needed. The left hand is passive until support is called for. Let’s say a woman is carrying a large bag and comes to the door, she then shifts the sack of groceries to the left arm while the right hand guides the key into the door lock. For a right handed person, the left side always supports and the right side always leads. For the left handed person, the left hand supports and right hand leads. One side dominates and the other side supports. They may be equal, but their roles are definitely not identical. Rather, their roles are opposite yet complimentary. The complementary nature of yin and yang breaks down when the mind-based ego enters into the evolutionary picture.
So then how do we explain the presence of so many lefties among leaders such as Bill Gates, John D. Rockefeller, Marie Curie, Leonardo Davinci, Albert Einstein, Aristotle, Frederick Nietzsche and even our current U.S. president Barack Obama just to name a few?
Some of the oldest evidence of left-handedness comes from Kenya, where of a 500,000 year-old cache of 54 stone tools made by one of our pre-human ancestors, about 10% were chipped using the left hand. Similarly, Neanderthals working with meat and stone tools more than 150,000 years ago left marks on their teeth at left and right angles, which indicated opposite hand use, in almost perfect proportion with today’s 10:1 ratio. Paleolithic cave paintings from France and Spain also suggest that lefties walked among our ancestors about 30,000 years ago. Studying a collection of so-called negative hand drawings on the cave walls, kind of like tracing one hand with the other, scientists found that individuals drew their left hand much more frequently than the right.
And despite its long history, left-handedness is still considered a uniquely human trait.
Chimpanzees and gorillas, with whom we share an ancestor and a number of common physical attributes, don’t seem to favor one hand over the other. Instead, being left handed may have developed along with another characteristic known just to humans… language. Most people process language in the left side of their brain, the hemisphere that also controls the right side of the body, and have done so presumably since humans started chatting a few hundred thousand years ago. Whichever gene made the left side of our brains responsible for language also played a role in making our right side dominant, experts such as Chris McManus, (author of “Right Hand, Left Hand” and professor of psychology and medical education at University College London), believe. Though a specific left-handed gene has yet to be found, the trait to choose one hand over the other is likely inherited, agree scientists. Research suggests that, while one is developing, the two sides of the brain actually “fight” for specialized control of certain functions, such as the favored hand, with the left side, (which controls the right), more often coming out on top. Interestingly, even when the right side wins, the left brain will share some of the duties, according to some studies. So while right-handed people usually process language exclusively in the left side of their brain, lefties process language mostly in the right but partly on the left as well!
That special wiring may make lefties more adept at certain skills required for leadership according to McManus, who also said that some evolutionary advantage, whether overall greater intelligence or language skills, has kept a stable group of lefties for at least the past 200,000 years.