As a predominantly left-handed person, a recent triumph was finding a brand of pens that was both comfortable to write with and that didn’t smear as I moved my hand across the page. So why are humans the only known species that is so strongly “handed”? The video below looks at evidence from the fossil record and cave paintings to show that handedness goes far back in our evolution, and is likely tied to bipedalism the lateralized nature of our brains. Still, it’s good to know I’ll have an advantage should I choose a new career move into mixed martial arts fighting.

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.


10 Thoughts on "Lefty versus Righty — A Look at Human Handedness"

As a fellow left-hander, I would heartily recommend Chris McManus’ book “Right Hand, Left Hand” – a really interesting read. One observation I always remember from it is that, if you ask a right-handed person to write down 10 things about themselves, almost none of them will include being right-handed. If a left-handed person is asked to complete the same task, there is a very strong chance that they will include being left-handed. Right-handers definitely underestimate how significant a role handedness plays in our lives

Thanks! I’ll share that I’ve been having good luck with Parker rollerball ink cartridges (though a slightly greater investment).

I learned early on to tilt my paper sharply to the right to avoid the smear. It’s also the only way I could make it all slant the same direction, even if it happened to lean to the left. A handwriting analyst saw it once and said Whoa! then she learned I was a lefty. Suddenly, oh, no big deal. Oh well!

As a fellow left-hander, thank you for posting this. It is a fascinating piece; thank you for sharing.

On the topic of pens, smearing, and writing, even at a young age, I had figured out how biased the world was to being right-handed, particularly with things like how desks were designed, pencil sharpeners were installed, and most annoyingly how I was taught to turn my paper so that my cursive writing was tilted “properly”, which is I won’t endorse requiring cursive writing in schools. To this day, I still write with a hand/wrist position for which the pencil/pen is above any of my fingers to avoid that dreaded lead/ink smear along my hand.

I’m forever grateful to my third grade teacher, Mrs. Hoffman, who tilted my piece of paper the other way and retrained my hand to write without the lefty hook that plagues our writing. I was lucky to have this teacher who took the care to help me be different from my classmates.

As a fellow lefty, I’d be happy to go into battle with you!
Thanks for sharing.

As a righty-lefty I can so appreciate the left-handedness of the world. My dad was left handed so taught us all of the skills he knew as if we were lefties, too. And, being left eye dominant, I have to do all things that get lined up as a lefty – shooting guns and pool, threading a needle, zeroing in on an object with binoculars. I appreciate it because I believe I think more whole brained, when it is not truly so.

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