Much has been said about people who write with their left hand, and although they used to look bad, more and more is known about how their brains work.
Much has been said about left-handed people, since those times when it was considered that using the left hand was related to the devil himself and should be eradicated. It has been said that many fundamental historical figures in history, such as Picasso or Leonardo da Vinci, were left-handed. And what do these two characters also have in common? Creativity, without a doubt.
In principle, the hand with which we write or touch our nose shouldn't say much about our dexterity, but it does. As ‘Science Alert' reports, scientists have been studying human dexterity for more than a century and discovered that it can show a lot about how human brains may function differently.
The left side is generally associated with speech, writing, arithmetic, language, and comprehension.
And since creativity is a measure of how we think, and therefore lives in our brains, any evidence that left-handed people are more creative should be lurking somewhere in our neurocircuitry. Is it a coincidence that some of the most famous artists in history have been left-handed? Now we'll find out.
Maybe you knew it before, but just in case: the brains of left-handed people differ from those of right-handed people. Apparently, they show less brain lateralization than right-handers. Such lateralization is the idea that the human brain is divided into two halves and each half is responsible for its own set of functions. The left side is generally associated with speech, writing, arithmetic, language and comprehension, while the right side controls creativity, musical abilities and artistic expression, to name just a few functions among many.
The right side controls creativity, musical skills and artistic expression, to name just a few functions among many.
If someone were to start a conversation with you and scan your brain with a functional MRI, the left hemisphere (linked to language) should light up more than the right half. What has been discovered (for most right-handers) is that for language-related tasks, the left side of the brain is more active than the right half. But scientists have discovered that this is not the case for most left-handers.
Most left-handed people actually exhibit more activity in their right hemisphere for language tasks. Because left-handers rely less on the left hemisphere, the researchers describe this as less lateralization of the brain. And it's not just there that they diverge. A 2010 study of hand and face perception found that left-handers used both left and right brain regions when looking at faces. But for the right-handers in the study, face recognition was largely localized to the right side of the brain.
These differences in brain lateralization may help left-handers think more outside the box and, therefore, have a more creative advantage.
What does all this have to do with creativity? Well, according to experts, these differences in brain lateralization may help left-handers think more outside the box and therefore have a more creative edge. Although surprisingly some of the most compelling research linking handedness and creativity comes from studies of people with high levels of schizotypy, personality traits that resemble schizophrenia but are not as extreme.
In the early 2000s, several research groups found an intriguing link between highly creative people, such as professional musicians and visual artists, and high levels of schizotypy. In addition, those with pronounced schizotypy also exhibited atypical brain lateralization where the right hemisphere was more active for tasks typically dominated by the left hemisphere, similar to what has been found in left-handed and ambidextrous people.
Another issue is that the possibility that left-handers are more creative could also be due to the way they have to adapt to a world designed for right-handedness
So, if unusual brain lateralization is related to greater creativity in people with high levels of schizotypy, then it is plausible to suggest that left-handed people with less brain lateralization may also be more creative. Although, of course, more research is needed to confirm that link more directly.
Another issue is that the possibility that left-handers are more creative could also be due in part to the way they have to constantly adapt to a world designed for right-handers. This provides opportunities for left-handers to use their imagination more often, which can help people foster creativity.
But why are there left-handers?
Researchers don't know exactly why about 10% of the population is left-handed. But some studies offer clues about how and when laterality is determined. In one study, researchers found that they could reasonably predict a child's hand preference by observing which hand they liked to move in utero.
One study found that laterality is inherited, at least in part, and may be determined by genetic factors
And a more recent study in 2020 found that laterality is inherited, at least in part, and may be determined by genetic factors. But environmental factors cannot be ignored either. For example, a child with a left-handed parent may become left-handed by imitation, regardless of which hand he or she preferred in utero. The most likely conclusion is that it is an expression of genes, but due to the plasticity of the brain, it is possible to change the use of the hands apparently with little effect.
And the same goes for creativity, so the final verdict is this: if you want to be more creative, practice. If you want to use your left hand more often, practice. With enough willpower, your brain is yours to mold and manipulate.