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The Left Hand Theory: What the Future of Handedness Might Look Like

It's not something we talk about much after it's determined early in life, but which hand we use predominantly says a lot about how our minds work. Or at least, it used to.

The right brain is the creative, more abstract side of the brain while the left is rigidly analytical, logical, seeking to organize and order the world around it.

Like many naturally born lefties, I was hyper-aware of the difference between myself and the right-handers who make up about 85 percent of the population. In school, I was constantly combating pencil and ink smears along my left hands while my right handed friends couldn't understand the markings—they wrote away from the fresh ink on the page and us lefties, we wrote right towards it. Following my gym teacher's instructions for batting at softball or holding a hockey stick felt awkward and uncomfortable. A bright scar across the inside of my thumb still bears the memory of a mismanaged art class tool that I attempted to modify to fit my backwards brain.

Right-brained/left-handed people are often thought to be more creative—ever notice how many actors and actresses in your favorite movies or television shows are left-handed? It's far more than 15 percent. Likewise, we're thought to be more intelligent—representing 20 percent of the MENSA population. We have a tendency to be more successful than right-handed people, too—making an average of 15 percent more money than the righties. We're also more prone to alcoholism, mental illness, and death by accidents, the latter, of course, a result of trying to navigate a world built for right-handed people.

And while the left-brained/right-handers have brought us much of our innovation, industry, and financial growth throughout history, you could say that they're also responsible for suppressing some of our creativity and more holistic approaches; and even, responsible for bringing a more aggressive reign over humanity that has led to a disproportionate distribution of resources, caused environmental and human health issues, and forced dogmatic religious and political beliefs onto countless humans too scared or confused to ever pursue their own explorations of these issues.

But, that's not necessarily going to continue, according to Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind—we're already entering a new era: "For nearly a century, Western society in general, and American society in particular, has been dominated by a form of thinking and an approach to life that is narrowly reductive and deeply analytical. Ours has been the age of the “knowledge worker,” the well-educated manipulator of information and deployer of expertise. But that is changing."

Animals tend to exhibit more ambidextrous nature, and likewise many left-handed people are better skilled at using their right hands for routine tasks than right-handed people are at using their left. We've adapted to the world, to some degree, better than the righties. And, it seems we're likely undergoing another evolution of handedness. While I spent my formative years wiping off ink and pencil stains from my left hand, students nowadays do most of their "writing" on computers, which requires an equal use of both hands. Likewise, we arm ourselves with smart phones that require the same distribution of finger function as a keyboard.

Could this move towards a more balanced approach of hand use also help to rewire our brains? According to Pink, "Today, the defining skills of the previous era—the “left brain” capabilities that powered the Information Age—are necessary but no longer sufficient. And the capabilities we once disdained or thought frivolous—the “right-brain” qualities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfulness, and meaning—increasingly will determine who flourishes and who flounders. For individuals, families, and organizations, professional success and personal fulfillment now require a whole new mind. "

It always amazed me that our societal rules suggested we identify which hand is more dominant in our children and encourage them to develop it, leaving the other hand as a sort of runner-up, waiting to be utilized. But what if we started to encourage use of both hands? Instead of teaching children how to write or use a fork with their dominant hand, we instead helped them develop those skills in both hands and thus, developed a more balanced approach to both sides of the brain like Pink suggests?

It's not too late for adults, either. Keyboards and smart phones are giving us the chance to develop balance in our hands and we can actively participate in other ways too like eating with our less dominant hand, writing, and doing other tasks with it on a regular basis.

And for the 85 percent of you who have a limited relationship with your left hand, doesn't the dominant analytical part of your brain see that as totally illogical?

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