Are left-handed people really smarter?

Thanks to left-handers like Jimi Hendrix, Aristotle, and Marie Curie, most of us correlate the hand preference with either intellect or ingenuity.

Research has consistently suggested that left-handed people tend to excel in academia. However, the data on left-handedness’s relationship with creativity is a little more ambiguous.

Left-handed people are natural mathematicians

In a study published in the journal Frontiers, of more than 2,300 right- and left-handed students between the ages of 6 and 17, left-handed students dramatically outperformed right-handed participants on complex math problems.

The research, led by Giovanni Sala, an assistant professor at the Institute for Comprehensive Medical Science at Fujita Health University in Japan, indicated that his team’s findings maybe be due to that the fact that left-handers typically have a larger corpus callosum, which is the bundle of nerve fibers connecting the two hemispheres of the brain.

“A possibility is that the stronger connection between the two hemispheres allows the [left-handed] subject to have stronger spatial abilities, and we know that spatial abilities are connected to mathematics because mathematics is often conceptualized throughout space,” Sala explained.

Left-handers may also develop a knack for complex problem solving because of the way their left hand became their dominant hand.

“Handedness is a very complex trait, and specifically left-handedness may be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on what the cause is,” Sala continued.

Some populations who are born right-handed learn to become left-handed because of illness or even by choice. In these instances, the skills necessary to facilitate this outcome, in turn, may improve parts of the brain related to mathematics specifically.

The gifted left-handed mathematicians involved in Sala’s study were found to be particularly adept at associating a mathematical function to a set of data. This implies a flair for recontextualizing information in real-time.

Left-handers and creative genius

In another recent study, researchers at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands could not effectively establish a relationship between left-handedness and creativity.

Analysis revealed that left-handers demonstrated greater creativity on all four scales of this test, but it could be argued that the test assesses general creativity in thinking, rather than artistic creativity.

Many preceding and following studies arrived at similarly broad conclusions. It may be that left-handed artists benefit from the same neurological advantages observed among left-handed academics, but the connection was much less specific.

It should also be noted that a lot of research designed to determine creative aptitude is based on self-reporting. Most of us are inclined to label ourselves as creative to some degree and an even larger majority are unaware of objective measures of creativity.

In a 2019 survey of more than 20,000 people, left-handers reliably labeled themselves as more artistically inclined on a scale of 1 to 100, even though the lefties in that same study did not spend significantly more time on artistic pursuits than right-handed people did.

Read more about when left-handed people are more productive here.