Mind and Memory
7 Fascinating Facts You Never Knew About Ambidextrous People
A tiny fraction of the population can use both hands with equal skill. Here’s the biology behind this cool ability, plus some other tidbits you never knew.
There are very, very few of them
Truly ambidextrous people make up only about 1 percent of the population, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). People who have no dominant hand, and can use both hands with equal skill, are about 1 in 100, though many people who are left-handed can use their non-dominant hand nearly as well as their dominant one.
There’s one definition
The true definition of being ambidextrous is being able to use both hands with equal ease, according to Merriam Webster. But many people often use ambidextrous to also mean switching up the hand you use for different tasks, like writing or cutting. That refers more to how consistent or inconsistent you are with your handedness. Here are 14 hilarious tweets all lefties will relate to.
It’s all in your head
Ambidexterity indicates that the left and right sides of that person’s brain are pretty much symmetrical (which is true for lefties too!) On the other hand, right-handed people tend to be left-brain dominant, according to the APA. Here’s more about how your brain determines which hand you prefer.
Academia may not be their strong suit
Surprisingly, even though this skill is so connected to the brain, ambidextrous people tend to be more in tune with their physical abilities than their mental ones. It may be for this reason that they tend to perform more poorly on general intelligence tests than people who favor one hand. In a Finnish study, of the 7- and 8-year-old children who completed several different academic tests, 87 out of the 8,000 participants were comfortable using both hands. The ambidextrous students were 90 percent more likely than the right-handed ones to struggle with math problems and were also more likely to have difficulties with language. Learn the things your child’s teacher wants you to know.
It also has ties to ADHD…
In the same Finnish study, left-handed and ambidextrous teenagers were twice as likely as right-handers to show signs of ADHD. Of the teenagers in the study who’d already been diagnosed with ADHD, the ambidextrous ones showed more severe symptoms. The researchers note that it doesn’t mean all mixed-handed kids will have trouble in school or develop ADHD. These are the ADHD myths people still get wrong.
The gene that contributes strongly to left-handedness, LRRTM1, also increases a person’s risk for schizophrenia. Since left-handed and ambidextrous people’s brains are similar, ambidextrous people are at a higher risk for the condition as well. While one more recent study supports the link between non-right-handedness and schizophrenia risk (because of the side of the brain more often used in people who don’t dominantly use their right hand), another study says the risk for psychopathy and inconsistent handedness isn’t something to be overly concerned about. Here are other hidden dangers that come with being left-handed.
They’ve got skills and their share of famous representatives
Ambidexterity may give people an advantage in activities such as music, art, and sports. Leonardo da Vinci, Ben Franklin, and Albert Einstein are some of history’s most famous ambis, according to Mental Floss. (Franklin signed the Declaration of Independence with his left hand!) Maroon 5 frontrunner Adam Levine, while not totally ambidextrous, writes with his left hand but does most other things with his right. Figure skater Michelle Kwan and LeBron James are just two of the many athletes skilled at using both hands. Here are famous people you didn’t know were left-handed.
- American Psychological Association. “The Left Brain Knows What the Right Hand is Doing.”
- News release. Imperial College London.
- Meriam Webster. “Ambidextrous Definition.”
- Science Daily. “Gene for Left-Handedness Identified.”
- The British Journal of Psychiatry. “Excess of non-right-handedness in schizophrenia: meta-analysis of gender effects and potential biases in handedness assessment.” October 2014.
- Laterality. “Inconsistent handers show higher psychopathy than consistent handers.” June 2015.
- Mental Floss. “11 Facts About the Ambidextrous.”