Ambidexterity refers to the ability to use both hands with equal ease. The word is derived from the Latin word “ambidexter,” which means doubly (ambi) right-handed (dexter). Here are ten interesting facts about ambidexterity.
10. Ambidexterity is Rare
According to the American Psychological Association, only about one percent of humans are born ambidextrous. Ninety percent of the population is right-handed, and the other nine percent are either left-handed or mixed-handed. Mixed-handed means that the right hand is dominant for some tasks while the left hand is dominant for other tasks.
9. There are Different Types of Ambidexterity
Not all ambidextrous people are the same. There are some who can use both hands with strong skill all the time (a.k.a. “ambidextral”). This is the rarest form of ambidexterity. Then, there are the people who are mixed-handed. Lastly, there are the “ambisinistral” folks–the people who use both hands equally, yet neither hand is very strong.
8. Ambidexterity Can Be Learned
Not all ambidextrous people are born that way. Because there was a stigma attached to left-handedness (people thought it was associated with witchcraft), many lefties from the Middle Ages and beyond taught themselves to use their right hand. Still, others may become ambidextrous after they injure their dominant hand.
“Teaching people to become ambidextrous has been popular for centuries… Calls for ambidexterity were especially prominent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For instance, in the early 20th century English propagandist John Jackson established the Ambidextral Culture Society in pursuit of universal ambidexterity and two-brainedness for the betterment of society,” Michael Corballis, professor of cognitive neuroscience and psychology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, said in an article on ScientificAmerican.com.
7. Ambidexterity is Linked to Brain Disorders
A Finnish study found that ambidextrous teens were twice as likely as right-handed teens to show signs of ADHD. Plus, of the teens in the study who had already been diagnosed with the disorder, the ambidextrous teens showed more severe symptoms.
Ambidextrous people are at a higher risk for schizophrenia as well. LRRTM1, the gene that contributes strongly to left-handedness, increases a person’s risk for developing schizophrenia. Because the brains of left-handed and ambidextrous people are so similar, ambidextrous people also face an increased risk for developing the disorder.
6. Ambidextrous People Often Have Synesthesia
Ambidextrous people–and lefties, too–are far more likely to be synesthetes than right-handed individuals. Synesthesia, which is derived from the Greek and means “to perceive together,” is the ability to hear colors, taste shapes, perceive text in color, feel physical sensations that others are feeling, and the like.
According to the American Psychological Association, synesthesia “comes in many varieties. Some synesthetes hear, smell, taste or feel pain in color. Others taste shapes, and still others perceive written digits, letters and words in color. Some, who possess what researchers call ‘conceptual synesthesia,’ see abstract concepts, such as units of time or mathematical operations, as shapes projected either internally or in the space around them. And many synesthetes experience more than one form of the condition… The most common form of synesthesia, researchers believe, is colored hearing: sounds, music or voices seen as colors. Most synesthetes report that they see such sounds internally, in ‘the mind’s eye.’ Only a minority see visions as if projected outside the body, usually within arm’s reach.”
5. Ambidextrous Brains are Symmetrical
Left-brained individuals are said to be more logical and analytical, whereas right-brained individuals are said to be more creative. Rather than being left brain dominant or right brain dominant, the brains of ambidextrous people are symmetrical. This lack of asymmetry is linked to an increased risk in ADHD, language problems, and other issues.
4. Ambidextrous People Can Be Emotionally Unstable
According to a study conducted by researchers at Montclair State University, ambidextrous people are more likely to experience emotional instability. To test this, the researchers attempted to influence the moods of study participants by asking them to think happy, sad or anxious thoughts while listening to different kinds of classical music. They found that the ambidextrous participants had more negative feelings, compared to the right-handed study participants, as soon as they walked into the lab. This might suggest that their moods were more immediately influenced by their surroundings. The ambidextrous participants were also far more likely to report slipping into a new mood during the experiment.
“Handedness can be a marker for how the brain is organized,” Ruth Propper, a psychology professor at Montclair State University, said in an article published in London-based magazine New Scientist. Ambidextrous people tend to have a larger corpus callosum (the area where the two hemispheres of the brain communicate). There is greater communication between the halves of ambidextrous brains, so that could be the reason for their emotional suggestibility, Propper added.
The findings were presented at the meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society in Boston back in 2011.
3. Ambidextrous Kids May Struggle Academically
According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, children who are ambidextrous may be more likely than their peers to struggle in school. The researchers aren’t sure why. However, lead researcher Alina Rodriguez of the Imperial College of London had this to say in an article on LiveScience.com: “Our results are statistically and clinically significant. That said, our results should not be taken to mean that all children who are mixed-handed will have problems at school or develop ADHD. We found that mixed-handed children and adolescents were at a higher risk of having certain problems, but we’d like to stress that most of the mixed-handed children we followed didn’t have any of these difficulties.”
2. Ambidextrous People Are Famous
Well, not all of them. But there are quite a few well-known folks who are ambidextrous. Here is a list of some of them:
-Benjamin Franklin (FUN FACT: He signed the Declaration of Independence with his left hand.)
-Thomas Jefferson (FUN FACT: He wasn’t born ambidextrous. He taught himself to write with his left hand.)
-Leonardo da Vinci (FUN FACT: He could draw forward and backward with both hands at the same time.)
-President James A. Garfield (FUN FACT: He could write in Latin with one hand and Greek with the other at the same time.)
-Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan
1. Cats Are Also Ambidextrous
A study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience some years ago found that 10 percent of all cats were ambidextrous. Another study, published in 2016 in the Journal of Comparative Psychology, found that ambilateral cats were “perceived as less affectionate, obedient, friendly, and more aggressive, than left or right-pawed animals.”
Are you ambidextrous? Were you born that way or did you teach yourself to write with your other hand? Can you do really cool things like write in two languages at the same time like President Garfield or draw forward and backward at the same time like da Vinci? Leave a comment below. We’d love to hear about it!