What do Barack Obama, George H.W. Bush, Oprah Winfrey and Lady Gaga have in common?
Aside from their philanthropy, popularity and all-around inspiration, they're also all left-handed. So if you're a lefty, give yourself a round of applause.
Thursday, Aug. 13, is a great day to be a lefty; it's the annual Left-Handers Day.
According to the Left-Handers Day website, the day is meant to "increase public awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of being left-handed."
The unofficial holiday was launched in 1992 by the Left-Handers club in the United Kingdom, and it's the one day out of the year set aside to celebrate left-handers.
Left-handers have it rough in a mostly right-handed world. They have to deal with smudged hands while trying to write, fumbling around with scissors more suitable for our right-handed friends and repeatedly bumping their hands while writing in binders.
There have been times throughout history where left-handedness was used to single people out for being unclean, or even witches.
However, since the 1990s lefties have been given their own day, recognition not given to our right-handed friends. Brag while you can because lefties only have 24 hours to celebrate.
How is left-handedness determined?
Like many other aspects of human behavior, handedness is a complex trait influenced by genetics, environment and chance.
According to the National Institutes of Health, hand preference develops before birth and becomes apparent in early childhood. While little is known about biological basis of handedness, it is believed to arise out of the developmental process differentiating the right and left sides of the body. The right hemisphere of the brain controls the left part of the body, and the left hemisphere controls the right part of the body.
Recent studies suggest that up to 40 genes contribute to handedness.
“Each of these genes likely has a weak effect by itself, but together they play a significant role in establishing hand preference,” according to the NIH.
Studies of twins have determined that 25% of the variation in handedness is attributed to genes.
Only a few of the genes that effect handedness have been identified. However, researchers have found that there is an increased change of being right-handed if an individual suffers from the psychiatric disorder schizophrenia, credited to the PCSK6 gene. Another connections has been found thanks to the LRRTM1 gene, which is associates and increased change of being left-handed among those with dyslexia, a condition that causes difficulty with reading and spelling. The NIH says it is unclear whether these genes relate to people without these conditions.
It is not total a surprise that President George H.W. Bush didn’t pass down his left handedness to his son George W. Bush because handedness does not have a simple pattern of inheritance. While the chances of children of left-handed parents are more likely to be left-handed themselves, the chance of being left-handed is still low. Most children of left-handed parents are right-handed.
One 2019 study, that included 400,000 people in the UK, looked at the process leading to left-handedness.
"We discovered that, in left-handed participants, the language areas of the left and right sides of the brain communicate with each other in a more coordinated way,” Dr. Akira Wiberg, a Medical Research Council fellow at the University of Oxford said in a release. “This raises the intriguing possibility for future research that left-handers might have an advantage when it comes to performing verbal tasks, but it must be remembered that these differences were only seen as averages over very large numbers of people and not all left-handers will be similar."
Fun Facts about lefties
1. Left-handed people make up 10% of the world's population.
2. There have been eight U.S. presidents who were left-handed including: James Garfield, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
3. Sinister (Latin for left), Mollydooker (Australian slang term), Southpaw (name for a left-handed pitcher), Goofy footed and Cuddy wifter are a few terms for left-handed people.
4. There is a Left Hand, West Virginia, named after the nearby Lefthand Run Creek. With a population of approximately 390 people, the unincorporated town is located 30 minutes North-East of the state capitol Charleston.
5. 1 in 4 Apollo astronauts were left-handed, 250% more lefties than the normal level of probability for the group.
7. Lefties are better drivers according to a study from the Center for Handedness Research and The Zebra. The study looked at the driving habits and accident rates of 1,500 drivers over 10 years and found that the left-handed drivers had fewer accidents. In addition, an AA Driving School poll found 57% of lefties pass their driving test the first time compared with 47% of righties.
8. A study found that right-handers, on average, live to be nine years older than left-handers.
9. The highest rates of left-handedness can be found in North America, Australia, New Zealand and western Europe. Whereas the lowest rates, between 4 and 6%, are found in Asia, Africa and South America.
10. Left-handed people are more affected by fear. According to research conducted in the U.K., lefties gave more fragmented accounts when asked to recall events from a dramatic film clip.