A 7%-er is a left-handed person and, yes, it appears that, even though only about 7% of the general population are left-handed, a greater percentage of creative people in art, music, politics, science, and many other fields are ‘southpaws’.
Actually 7% is an estimate. It used to be that only about 3% of the population were left-handed but the number is growing and now, among young people, the percentage is closer to 11%. In certain fields, the percentage is much higher. In fact, in one team of instructional designers that I worked with, 13 of the 20 instructional designers were lefties.
A common belief is that left-handed people are more intelligent or creative than right-handed people. Of course, since there’s no real accepted standard or measurement for either intelligence or creativity, it’s hard to say that for a fact. However, some studies do suggest that there is a positive correlation between left-handedness and creativity or intelligence. Being left-handed I tend to lean toward those studies.
Dr. Alan Searleman, from St. Lawrence University, New York, studied 1,200 people and rated them for memory, vocabulary and problem-solving. He found the ‘true left-handers’, those who throw balls with their left-hands or favor their left ear for eavesdropping or their left eye for peeking, are twice as good at problem-solving and have a wider vocabulary than their right-handed peers. They are also more likely to be intellectually gifted with IQs over 140. He said they,
“have a higher ‘fluid’ intelligence and better vocabulary than the majority of the population. This is perhaps why there are more of these in the creative professions such as music, art, and writing.”
On the other hand, they tend to be forgetful. Okay, forget about that little detail.
On the other hand, Professor Mike Nicholls of Adelaide’s Flinders University, says it’s not true–even though he’s a lefty himeself. He studied 5,000 five year olds and came to the conclusion that ‘left-handers tend to do worse as a group than right-handers’. He added that the reduced cognitive ability of left-handed people was small but similar to the negative outcomes of being born prematurely. My response is, perhaps we are just late-bloomers.
After all, we have more to learn and to adapt to. Society favors the right-handed and we—the left-handed—have to learn to do everything backwards. We have to learn to be creative as we navigate the right-handed world, perhaps developing better problem-solving skills and ultimately the ability to adapt and innovate, which by the way, are core components of creativity and the ability to come up with great ideas!
We might take longer to get going but once we do, watch out, world! In his book, Right-Hand, Left-Hand, Chris McManus of University College, London, says that left-handed people as a whole have historically produced an above average quota of high-achievers. He also argues that since the proportion of left-handers is rising, the world could see a corresponding intellectual advance and a leap in the number of mathematical, sporting or artistic geniuses.
Unfortunately, since I have to be fair, I’ll also have to admit that left-handers are also over-represented on the other end of the scale with a disproportionately high number of people with learning disabilities, autism, stuttering and other disabilities. There are also more left-handed people with schizophrenia, epilepsy, and Down’s Syndrome. There are also a larger proportion of criminals who are left-handed. We also tend to have more allergies, are more clumsy and die younger.
Never mind all that negative stuff. Since the theme this month is on great ideas, let’s focus on the research and the historical evidence that shows that probably, if you are left-handed, you’re more adept at coming up with great ideas because you are more creative and have greater vocabulary and intellectual ability. Wait a minute, does greater intellectual ability mean better ideas? Is that a given? Let’s explore that in an upcoming blog.
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