Comments are closed. InternationalLeft-Handers’ Day takes place on 13 August. To mark it, John Charlton takes alook at the differences between right and left-handers and examines whether‘lefties’ are better suited to certain jobsThey are one of Britain’s most significant minorities, yet very little isdone to accommodate their physical preference. Their numbers in the populationhave risen from three per cent 100 years ago to more than 10 per cent now, butmarkets ignore them and employers pay little heed to their difference.Continuing research indicates that many in their ranks have abilities whichexceed occupational norms. They are, left-handers. And, it seems, for themcareer choices can still be tough. “There are some jobs from which left-handers are almost totallyexcluded – bricklaying, for example. Usually this is due to a lack of toolswhich suit left-handers,” says Keith Milsom, managing director ofSurrey-based retailer Anything Left-Handed. Milsom also works for the International Left-Handers Club. Founded in 1991,its mission is “to help left-handers feel proud of their handedness, andto campaign to remove practical frustrations”. It is set to publish asurvey into various aspects of left-handedness on International Left Handers’Day, on 13 August. Studies into left-handedness have grown in recent years. Many academics and scientistsare keen to identify what makes them left-handed and they’ve got plenty of rawmaterial to draw upon. Some reports have sought to unravel the mysteries of whether beingleft-handed predisposes someone to be better at one type of job or to be disadvantagedin certain posts. But more of that later. According to Chris McManus, professor of psychology and medical education atUniversity College London, just over 10 per cent of the UK and Westernpopulations are left-handed. The percentage of male left-handers is slightlyhigher than that for females. But what accounts for the sudden increase in left-handedness in thepopulation over the last 100 years? The waning of discrimination is one answer.In Victorian times, for example, left-handed children were forced to write withtheir right hands by having their left hands tied behind their backs, or theyhad to sit on their left hands. Biblical interpretations have also castleft-handers under a cloud, with many symbolic associations linking right with ‘good’and left with ‘evil’ – the word ‘sinister’ actually refers to the unlucky side– or left hand side. Such prejudice and discrimination may have meant left-handers married laterand had fewer children. And, as left-handedness tends to run in families, sothe numbers of left-handers fell. In his book Right Hand, Left Hand, McManus says research indicates thatwhere both parents are left-handed, the chance of their having a left-handedchild is 26.1 per cent. Where one parent is left-handed the odds are 19.5 percent, while if both parents are right-handed there is a 9.5 per cent prospectof having a left-handed infant. Charles Darwin, the pre-eminent Victorian scientist and creator of thetheory of evolution, believed left-handedness was inherited. The trait ran inhis family. His wife was left-handed as were two of the eight children whosurvived long enough for their ‘handedness’ to be determined. McManus says it may all be down to genes. He suggests that variouscombinations of two genes may decide handedness, a D (dextral) and a C (chancegene). In brief, those with two DD genes have no chance of being left-handed,those with the CC genotype have a 50 per cent chance and those with the DCgenotype have a 25 per cent possibility. “We think there’s a gene for right handedness which accounts for thefact that most people are right-handed. And so most of us have a double dose ofthis right-handed gene,” says McManus. “The other gene is not aleft-handedness one in any simple sense. Instead, it is what we call a chancegene. People who have a double dose of this chance gene do not end up as beinginfluenced one way or the other. They have a fifty-fifty chance of being right-or left-handed. Other theories for left-handedness include those based on environmentalinfluences and damage caused to the brain during childbirth. Recent research atQueen’s University Belfast into the behaviour of foetuses in the womb foundthat more 90 per cent sucked their right thumb. McManus believes this studyadds weight to his view that handedness is biologically determined. Whatever the cause, what does being left-handed indicate in terms of brainstructure and intelligence-based abilities? First let’s scotch one urban myth – that 20 per cent of members of high-IQsociety Mensa are left-handers. A spokeswoman says the organisation doesn’t howmany of its members favour the sinister hand. Nevertheless, different parts of the brain control various functions. Basicallythe left hemisphere controls the righthand side of the body and vice-versa. Theleft also controls speech, language, logic and maths, while the right sidehouses the creative ‘controls’ which relate to music, art and emotion. Research at the University of California, published in March 2002, assertedthat left-handed people have a different, more flexible brain structure thantheir right-handed counterparts. “There really is a difference in brains that results in a moresymmetric brain in left-handers, where the two sides are more equal,” saysresearch team leader Daniel Geschwind. The findings were based on brain scans of 72 pairs of identical male twins.The brains of identical right-handed twins were very similar in size andstructure, but when a left-hander was part of a twin set, the brains weredifferent. In another recent US study, by Toledo University in Ohio, researchersStephen Christman and Ruth Popper and described in the journal Neuropsychology,gives evidence that left-handers tend to remember events better thanright-handers, who are better at recalling facts. The researchers believe theirwork indicates the two halves of the brain work together in episodic memorywhich helps left-handers recall events better than facts. This won’t surprise the International Left-Handers’ Club’s director KeithMilsom. He believes creative thinking and problem solving are the best featuresof the left-handed. So what about left-handed people’s predetermined suitability for certainprofessions? The 27,000-member club is analysing questionnaires for its surveyof left-handedness. Results based on the 2,400 completed to date haveintriguing occupational indicators and show perceived advantages anddisadvantages in some careers and occupations. Overall, 31 per cent of respondents feel left-handers are at a disadvantageat work. Mostly this was due to practical issues such as workplace layouts andtools designed for right-handers. However, some 16 per cent felt left-handershave some advantages in their jobs. Respondents feel left-handedness is an advantage to those working in IT, thearts, music and sport. They perceive it to be a disadvantage in manual jobs,healthcare, education and administrative jobs. However, some 45 per cent ofstudent respondents feel at a disadvantage because they favour their left hand.The survey indicates that left-handers may not be evenly distributed acrossdifferent working environments. Some 39 per cent of respondents feel there areless than average numbers of left-handers in their work groups while 34 percent say there are more. Respondents who work in IT claim left-handers are better at design,structuring and analysing data, visualisation in three dimensions andproblem-solving. Left-handed management consultant David Parry, who has worked in IT for morethan 25 years, agrees. “There is certainly a high proportion ofleft-handers working IT – about 20 per cent, I reckon. I think left-handers arebetter at data modelling and design. It was easy for me to grasp and apply dataanalysis, information modelling and database design skills. It wasn’t so easyto learn technical skills such as programming. “Left-handers also have an edge in spatial awareness – which helps indrawing a conceptual data model – and attention to visual detail,” saysParry. The Left-Handers’ Club survey does throw up some intriguing points. But itwould not stand up to stringent examination. For one, its respondents areself-selecting and skewed towards females, especially those with left-handed children.Yet the points it makes, allied to evidence from research, academic studies andanecdotal sources, indicate there is room for progress in making life a littlemore equal for those of a left-handed persuasion. However strongly left-handed employees feel beleaguered by work stations,telephones, scissors, notebooks and other items skewered in favour of therighteous right-handers, it is not yet considered to have a serious impact atwork. As a spokeswoman from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Developmentcomments: “Left-handedness is perceived to be a minority issue by societyand HR departments cannot really be expected to make this a serious issue. “If the Left Handers’ Club believes it to be an issue it should perhapsencourage its members to lobby their employers. If it [left-handedness] is morerelevant in certain sectors, then employers would welcome guidance. There islittle to suggest HR departments need to measure ‘handedness’ among staff,although, common sense guidance about meeting the needs of left-handers wouldbe welcome.” Weblinkswww.left-handersday.comwww.wmin.ac.uk/marketingresearch/graphology/lefthand.htmwww.anythingleft-handed.comwww.lefthandedguitars.co.ukAll the presidents’ handsSix of the 42 US presidents have beenleft-handers – four of them in the past 30 years. Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan,George Bush senior and Bill Clinton.In the 1992 presidential election all three candidates (Bushsenior, Clinton, and Ross Perot) were left-handed. Two left-handed presidents, Harry S Truman and Ronald Reaganwrote with their right hands. Among the 14 vice-presidents since 1900, but excluding thosewho became president, only one, Nelson Rockefeller, was left-handed.Famous leftiesLeonardo da Vinci painted La Giacondawith his left hand. Sir Paul McCartney plays left-handed guitar while JimiHendrix played a right-handed guitar upside down. Napoleon, Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein were lefties. Andthe second man to walk on the moon, Buzz Aldrin was left-handed.Prince William is left-handed as was his great-grandmotherQueen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. George VI – a natural left-hander – wrotewith his right-hand, stuttered (a more common complaint among ‘lefties’) andplayed tennis with his left hand. As did tennis legend John McEnroe, whosmashed his racquet with his. Left hand forwardOn 5 Aug 2003 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.