back to article Left-handeders finally unlock the closet, researchers find

Scientists have been left scratching their heads with both hands, after research showed the number of left-handed people in the population has almost quadrupled over the last 100 years. According to The Telegraph, the proportion of folks fiddling with standard corkscrews and taking their lives in their hands by using right- …


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  1. Steve Brett

    this is nonsense

    I'm left-handed but wave with my right - I do most things, with the notable exception of writing, with my right hand ...

  2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

    Forget the lefties...

    *I* want one of those keyboards! Whoever thought it was a good idea to put the numpad on the same side as the freakin mouse deserves to be shot. It's knackered my shoulder having to reach that extra three inches to move the thing, or having to lean overs slightly to type if I centre up the keyboard on the screen. I know it sounds like a tiny distance but in ergonomic terms it's huge.

  3. Richard Dyce


    This was still happening in Scotland in the late thirties. My Uncle George, a southpaw, was routinely 'tawsed' for using his left hand...

  4. jubtastic1

    Nothing to see here

    This is exactly the sort of pointless, wasteful, nonsense science that makes me fear for our future.

  5. Jason Irwin


    ...should be on the left for right-hander and on the right for left handers. That's why the "+" and "Enter" ("=" on a calculator) are larger so they can be easily bashed with a thumb. The pads are, after all, based on the old adding machines.

    As for the increase in lefites - I doubt there is. But there is now no suppression of using the "dirty" hand for tasks such as writing.

  6. Chris

    re: this is nonsense

    I agree.

    To be able to compare with the Edwardian data the researchers need to do the same and get a nice random sample of modern Elizabethans to wave at the camera.

    Another right-hand-waving leftie...

  7. Dale Morgan

    who cares?

    I'm left handed and have no problems using things designed for right handed people, who cares if someones right or left handed?

  8. AndyB

    Sinister, Indeed

    Oh, very clever.

    Now please put your old Latin textbooks away.

    Or are you a heraldry buff?

  9. Andy S


    ...nothing to do with the fact that people would have been forced to use their right hands for everything back then. Writing with your left hand would have resulted in a sharp crack across the knucles with a ruler in school! Even people i know now were forced to use their right hands as a child.

  10. Magnus Egilsson


    That might be adaptation / assimilation to a generally right handed world. Have you tried switching hands on common tasks. Its surprisingly easy to master them (im lefthanded btw :) )

  11. Stuart Halliday

    Too late to sue?

    When I was at Primary school way back in 1966 I was consistently hit by my ageing teacher Mrs White who tried to suppress all the pupils in her class with left-handed writing skills.

    This was quite wide spread in the Sixties I later found out. So not just Edwardians and Victorians.

    Too late to sue I guess?


    Nowadays I've had to put up with all those stupid mice adverts that claim that an obvious right-handed mouse can be used by a left-hander. Nice one Microsoft, one more nail in your coffin!

    Years before Microsoft thought about adding a mouse to a computer I was using one with my BBC B.

    I have to use the middle finger on my left hand to press the left mouse button to operate it and I have to change the default keyboard maps in all PC games to allow me to use the keys around the keypad with my right hand.

    One day we will take over the world...You can't stop DNA progress... ;-)

  12. Natalie Gritpants

    Re: Forget the lefties...

    I'm right handed but I use the mouse in my left hand when I'm at a keyboard with a number pad. I can't draw circles but so what.

  13. mahoney

    it's basic hygine

    After a little research, I found that the usage of sanitary paper toilet-seat covers has decreased in proportion to the increase in left-handedism.

    Doesn't everyone know that you catch left-handedism from dirty toilet seats.??

  14. Mr. EMan

    He's not a Righty, He's My Brother

    My younger brother and I are both left-handed, which is rare. Of course, he's an experiment. I made him do everything left-handed when he was growing up. So now he writes sloppily, can't play sports, and plays the guitar right-handed.

    My wife won't let me try this on my daughter. How will we ever exceed 11%?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    EVERYTHING apart from writing ... ah ha ..

    Which brings us to an interesting point .. how is handedness evaluated. Just because you write with your left, does that make you left handed ? When you are carrying out other, ummm, vital functions, with your right.

    Writing obviously being a taught skill must be open to method. So I reckon you are actually a right hander.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Forced to Adapt

    I'm left handed, and a LAN admin. I use my mouse on the left side, but don't switch the buttons. I'm pretty much ambidextrous except for writing. I'm used to a number pad on the right, can't use it on the left as well, but for some reason I almost always dial my phone with my left hand. Working on numerous PC every day, I see mice in all configurations---on the left side with buttons reversed/not, on the right side, sometimes with buttons reversed! The buttons reversed is annoying, but I can get used to it... though it begins to drive me crazy over a remote connection when I have to keep switching windows. Really the only insidious thing is trackball users--and they all seem to like their balls of death set so they could breathe on them and move the mouse pointer all the way to Colorado if they wished. That begins to irk me after a while. And hearing them whine that I changed their settings... Oh well...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    My mate tells of his school days being a leftie, the teacher selotaped his left hand to the desk to stop him using it.

    He's in his mid thirties so this was the late 70s !!!

    This did happen in Scotland.

  18. Ben Saxon

    What's that about musical instruments?

    I can safely say that, for the guitar at least, being a lefty can be an advantage. I started playing bass guitar left-handed when I was 13 because I simply assumed that would be best... how wrong I was! My weaker right hand is much more suited to plucking or picking the strings, and my stronger left paw is naturally much faster on the neck.

  19. Hywel

    Load of rubbish

    This research is flawed. I'm right-handed, and usually wave with my left hand. Why? Because my left hand is the one that isn't holding anything. I usually have stuff in my right hand, because I'm right-handed!

    If I wasn't holding anything in my right hand, I think I'd probably still wave with my left hand. How can the researchers tell anything from that?

  20. Disco-Legend-Zeke

    Who writes this stuff?

    You are really good!

  21. Andy

    Oh, for flips sake

    I am left handed, I wave with my right. So do a selection of my family and friends who are roughly half left and half right handed. People could wave with their right hand or left hand for all sorts of sociological and environmental reasons as well as left/right handedness (we salute with the right and shake hands with the right).

    Here's an alternative hypothesis. In the UK we wear wedding rings on our left hands. The incredible weight of the wedding rings purchased by Edwardian's flush from exploiting the colonies prevented them raising their left hands to wave with. Following the fall of empire and with lower marriage rates nowadays we wave with our left hand more frequently (!?). Footballers wives, of course, with their outrageously sized matrimonial finger frippery continue to wave with the right hand.

    This wedding ring hypothesis could also be extended to explain World War II. Germans wear their wedding rings on their right hand, the same hand as is used for the infamous Nazi salute. If only Eva Braun had made an honest man of Adolf before they got to that bunker, millions of lives could have been saved.

    Bah, humbug and fie upon your research methods, sir. Get thee back to the laboratorium.

  22. Ian


    Judging by the amount of pr0n surfing that supposedly goes on. These people have obviously just adapted to using their left hand, when the right hand is busy ;o)


  23. Dave

    Definitely Discouraged

    My grandmother used to take toys out of my left hand and put them in my right. Fortunately my mother stopped her. At school the lefties were singled out by the left-handed teacher and taught to write. Every school I went to did this, so I ended up with completely illegible handwriting, a combination of all the taught styles. So the next one to try it got a firm refusal - one of the more valuable lessons I learned at 13 is that you can say NO if you've got all your arguments organised.

  24. sue

    Only left handed people are in their right minds!

    Try getting some left handed pens/pencils and watch the right-handed folks try to read the text on them....highly amusing. Or, get left-handed knives and watch the right-handers get frustrated because they can't cut a slice straight.

    Left handed people adapt to the right handed world. Try learning reading guitar tabs when you're a lefty with a left handed guitar.....the world is upside down and back to front. pah!

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Handedness" is not determined solely by the hand that you write with. If you write with your left hand but do most other things with your right hand then you are most likely 'Right Handed' by definition. True lefties have a brain that works in a completely different manner.


  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just the Victorians and Edwardians ...

    "Whereas the left-handed Victorian and Edwardian school child would have been soundly thrashed before having his left hand nailed to the desk."

    This sort of thing was still going on in the late 70s (not the nailing of hands to the desk, but I suspect the headmistress of my primary school would have done that given the chance) - I started out as a leftie, but was 'encouraged', in a variety of ways, to write with my right hand, which invariably led to a sound telling off about how bad my handwriting was.

    The upshot of this is that I'm ambidextrous with regard to a lot of things ... except writing (and waving ;-) )

  27. War Monger

    Bogus article

    I'm another lefty who waves with his right. If you look closely, Reg, I'm waving at you right now...

  28. Luther Blissett

    Masons? and keyboards

    Seems likely that freemasonary has increased since Edwardian times.

    As for kbds, I still miss that IBM AT one with the Func keys down the left. I'm using an A4Tech one with the nmeric pad on the left - unfortunately it took me 6 months to get used to the trapezoidal keys. Or rather I'm not - I'm having to contort my wrists to accommodate to a Thinkpad kdb writing this. If you hate numeric keys on the right, there are obvious solutions.

  29. Keith Turner

    Righties are the disadvantaged

    Screws are usually right-hand thread as it's easier to tighten up with a right-hand grip. This goes for jar lids as well. So us sinister folk have had to deal with a cack-handed world but we learn - unlike those who are always in the right.

    Who gets called on to undo jam jars?

    And who gets first pick of the pickles 'cos no-one else can get the lid off?

    I have the mouse on the right which leaves the left hand for holding a mug of tea or snack or whatever.

    Just remember, that when lefties shake hands with the right then they are using their 'dirty' hand.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    > This did happen in Scotland

    What did? Writing? When did the handbag carrying skirt wearing scots learn to write FFS?

    I say let's take a buzz saw along Hadrians Wall and cast them adrift.

  31. JR

    Left Handed paintbrushes

    I vaguely remember my school trying to make me write with my right hand in the early 70s. My mother soon put a stop to that though. I rewarded her by sending her out for a left-handed paintbrush when I was a teenager. Funny thing was she actually went.

  32. LaeMi Qian


    Some of my field-customers are lefties and I have learned to invert my handedness as easier than re-arranging their workspaces (and back again when I am done). Didn't take too long.

  33. Kevin

    Mouse & keypad - @Graham Dawson

    A friend of mine spent a lot of time entering figures into Excel. He trained himself in about two days to use his mouse left handed so he could use the right for the number pad. Has never looked back.

    Or buy a USB number pad :-)

  34. Steve Evans


    I have a few friends who are lefties, and I end up fixing their PCs from time to time (such is the life of a techie), and I've actually got used to using a lefty mouse with my left hand, it's certainly easier than trying to remember the left and right click are swapped and using it with my right.

    As for the study based on photos, well that's just using unreliable evidence as a foundation for a wobbly theory.

    Not so much a study from the department of the bleedin' obvious as from the department of the pointless!

  35. Jon Tocker

    "Lefthand keyboards" an' sich

    Graham Dawson and Jason Irwin:

    Quite right. My keyboard is currently positioned so that the Ins, Del, Home, End, Pg Up, Pg Dn and cursor control keys are centred on the monitor, leaving the alphanumeric keyboard hanging off to the left so there's room to the right on the pissy little height-adjustable tray for my mouse.

    A brief experiment in repositioning the "right-handed" keyboard so the alphnumeric area is centred on the screen puts the numeric pad where my mouse usually resides on the right and leaves plenty of space on the left for the mouse.

    One of those "left handed" keyboards would suit me perfectly - I would no longer be working with my torso twisted to the left to reach the alphakeys while my head is turned to the right (relative to my torso) to see the screen.

    Although I can do pretty much everything except write with either hand (not exactly fully ambidextrous) and I've been able to adapt to a variety of left- and right-handed configurations when servicing other people's machines, I do have better mouse control with my right than my left so swapping the mouse across is not ideal (I'm trying it now and, although I can function, it's not as fluid. A left-hander would probably find it fairly comfortable if they prefer to use the mouse in their left hand.)

    Ben Saxon:

    I've been saying that for years! I don't see the logic in doing something as basic as strumming with your main hand and trying to do the fiddly fretwork with your off hand. Even picking or flamenco style work on the strings is more basic than some of those chord patterns. I've seriously considered reversing the strings on my mandolin to make it easier to do chords (using my more nimble right hand).

    I guess those who first designed the lute (or its predecessors) must have been masochists, wanting to do the fiddly bits with their off hand.

    Or was it a case of one of those creative "lefties" creating the first one and arranging it so the nimble left hand did the hard work while the right hand did the easier stuff and then some "righty" came along, saw it being played and didn't think to restring and flip the thing over when using it (probably assuming in his arrogance that the lefty was a righty...)

  36. Daniel Ballado-Torres


    Ah, so apparently we are more ... or as somebody else said, we're allowed to use our left hand. Still, even with "Lefty" scissors and other stuff, there are some things that really irk me:

    - Joysticks: It seems that "hand-neutral" sticks are gone, the last one my dad bought is clearly right-handed and I have to use it in awkward forms!

    - "Half-length desk" school chairs: You must know what I'm talking about. Instead of doing a large desk on the chair, they do it half, so you have a small space for your notebook and armrest... except it's on the right, useless to me. In college, there was supposed to be an even number of lefty and righty chairs, but usually the lefty chairs were gone or plundered by "I got here first, screw the other ones!".

    - Scissors: In my brief time living in the US, I had access to lefty scissors. Too bad here in Mexico that is not common, so I've had to use scissors in some mighty awkward ways...

    Curiously, apart from mice, one thing I do get handy on is using the shift-stick in standard transmission vehicles. Though I can know the answer for that; I can just go to the UK and learn to drive on "the other side". Hey, I might even be a better driver over there ;)

  37. Daniel


    "Try getting some left handed pens/pencils and watch the right-handed folks try to read the text on them....highly amusing. Or, get left-handed knives and watch the right-handers get frustrated because they can't cut a slice straight."

    Bah. I'm a righty, and if it's a decent knife, I can use it just fine - provided I'm using it in the hand it's supposed to be used in. It just takes a little practice. Try getting some righties to live in a household with a lefty for a while, then develop some long lasting wrist problems in their right hands. They'll learn. They'll probably never get as good as they were with their dominant hands (which is a big reason why trying to force kids to switch over to being right handed is just stupid and cruel), but they'll gain basic competency in simple tasks.


  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ultrasound perhaps

    Did I hear a rumour some years ago that being exposed to ultrasound in the womb gave a higher chance of left-handedness?

  39. Maty

    Those left behind ..

    I'm a lefty, and during my time at boarding school and the army this gave me one outstanding advantage. My Sunday punch came from the side no-one expected. Everyone knows that a lead from the left is a feint ... but mine wasn't.

    Naturally the number of lefties is going up. Natural selection, folks.

  40. Dave Sparrow

    Unscrewing Lids


    You're absolutely right (er, I mean, you're absolutely correct).

    As a Rightie, I nevertheless always unscrew difficult lids and bottle tops etc using my left hand as there is naturally more grip that way. When you see people getting stuck with this sort of thing, it's amazing to see the look on their face when you tell them to use their left hand and they suddenly find they can do it!

  41. Ian Thompson

    Loads of lefties

    Well, statistically my family must be exceptional. Dad is left-handed but does virtually everything but write right-handed (due to upbringing probably). Mum is left handed and does most things that way. Then both my brothers and myself are all left handed as well (some things done right handed but that's because of availability of things, golf clubs are mostly right handed, scissors, etc, etc).

    I do use a mouse right handed though but that's just because it's what I got used to when I first started using them.

    So, all 5 members of the family are left handed, that's a massive statistically anomaly.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Simple Illegible Mechanics

    Duh,Can anyone say,'SMUDGE'?

    Writing is Left to Right.

    A lefty, [c'est moi] whether putting pen or pencil to paper tends to blur the script.

    The fix is to contort the hand or be extra careful:

    both resulting in reduction of writing speed& productivity.

  43. Sam Penny

    Definition of Left / Right Handed?

    I'm not convinced that it's all that useful to describe people in such simple terms as "left handed" or "right handed".

    My brother is clearly somewhere in between. Some things he does with his left hand, some with his right hand, some with either hand, and some with *both* hands (e.g. when painting, it's not uncommon to see him with a paintbrush in each hand!)

    I on the other hand (ho ho) can hardly do *anything* worthwhile with my left hand, so I'm clearly more right handed than a lot of "right handed" people.

    On the subject of left handed mice, I have no problem using them, it's only switching between the two arrangements that gives me pause to curse the lefties who insist on them. I'd be quite happy to use a left handed mouse all the time, or for them to use right handed all the time, but switching is just a pain in the neck...

    Cheers & God bless

    Sam "SammyTheSnake" Penny

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Taped hand

    I had my left hand taped to the desk at school in Northamptonshire in 1970 and made to write right handed.

    I had already been taught to write left handed at home before school, and for years used both.

    Even now I use both hands evenly for most 'normal' things; right hand for writing (because I use ink pens and don't like smudging); and left for 'heavy', manual jobs.

    And there are many jobs that I don't know which way round is left or right handed - pitch fork, shovel, etc.

    I suppose that it's only 'private' things where you can truly go for the most comfortable way - so which five fingers do you shuffle with?

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