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Are Left-Handed People Smarter?

August 23, 2013


I happen to be left-handed, too.

Whatever the ultimate explanation may be, the advantage appears to extend to other types of thinking, too. In a 1986 study of students who had scored in the top of their age group on either the math or the verbal sections of the S.A.T., the prevalence of left-handers among the high achievers—over fifteen per cent, as compared to the roughly ten percent found in the general population—was higher than in any comparison groups, which included their siblings and parents. Among those who had scored in the top in both the verbal and math sections, the percentage of left-handers jumped to nearly seventeen per cent, for males, and twenty per cent, for females. That advantage echoes an earlier sample of elementary-school children, which found increased left-handedness among children with I.Q. scores above a hundred and thirty-one. 

Lombroso’s scientific conclusions about criminal physiology may be closer to Franz Joseph Gall’s phrenology than to any modern understanding of the brain. But he might not have been so far off the mark when he hypothesized that by looking at someone’s hands, we could learn something about the inner workings of their minds—though those workings have more to do with cognitive achievement than any inclination to commit highway robbery. Michelangelo and da Vinci were left-handed, after all. As were three of the last four occupants of the White House; the only right-handed President since the end of the Cold War has been George W. Bush.

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