So here's a weird study I read last week:
If you are going to be tested on rote memory, and you are right-handed, you may want to first sweep your eyes back and forth for thirty seconds. It will help you remember more.
If you're a lefty, it won't really help.
Weird, huh? Apparently the eye-sweeping helps because it improves communication between the brain's hemispheres, which seems to aid in recall.
And so why does this trick work better with people who are strongly right-handed, like I am?
Because apparently our two hemispheres suck when it comes to communicating with each other! Well, at least compared to lefties or more ambidextrous folks. We extreme righties are more likely to benefit from tricks that get the two sides talking.
Otherwise, apparently our left hemispheres are all: "shut up, right brain, I don't have to listen to you, I'm dominant!" and our right hemispheres are all "oh, sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt, but I just thought you might want to know this thing I noticed which was..." but then our bossy left brains are still like "Get lost! Lists of words are my department. Didn't I tell you I got this?" And then meanwhile all the ambidextrous people and the lefties have finished up the word memorization task and have gone on to get elected president or whatever.
I did try to do some research on this whole handedness and hemisphere stuff. Alas, I ended up more confused when I finished than when I started.
But at least I can try to pass along some interesting answers to questions I never thought to ask: like, for example: who's smarter and earns more money, a righty or a lefty? And who's more likely to be a schizophrenic or a pedophile?
First Off, How Right or Left Handed Are You?
Of course "handedness" is more of a continuum than a flat out category. Folks vary to the degree in which they prefer one hand or one side over the other. There's a handedness test here, although for me, this was not exactly a difficult question.
I am SO right-hand/left hemisphere dominant that none of the questions even came close to soliciting a left-handed answer. I do everything with my right hand. I also chew on the right side of my mouth, and favor my right eye even though my left eye actually sees better. When I go to the gym, I can lift more weight with my right arm even though I'm supposed to stop doing that and wait for my sissy left arm to catch up. (I've tried, but it never does. I finally decided: screw it, the right arm is more awesome and it gets to have bigger muscles. Deal with it, left arm. You get to wear the watch and the wedding ring, ok?)
But how about you guys--righties, lefties, or somewhere in between?
Handedness and Hemispheres
According to an interesting article over at How Stuff Works, the two hemispheres of the brain mostly process the same information, with data passing back and forth between them. But a few tasks, like language processing, tend to take place in one hemisphere or the other. While righties primarily use the left hemisphere for language processing, many lefties process language using both hemispheres of the brain.
And, so good news for you lefties: apparently you guys "have brains that are more conducive to simultaneous, bi-hemisphere processing of information."
Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain or Whatever
I went to look for the whole "right vs. left side of the brain" research, and specifically, how you can you get your hemispheres to talk to each other better? (Maybe intra-cranial couples counseling?) But it all got way too confusing. I was remembering all those books and articles from the 80's about how we need to use our intuitive creative right brains more, and not so much our uptight, linear, logical left brains. And how if we use our left hands for things and breath in through our left nostril we'll be the next Vincent Van Gogh.
Alas, there seem to be a lot of folks now saying: er, the left brain, right brain differences other than language aren't that big. We use both sides for most things. And a cranky Scotttish neuroscientist (a man after my own heart) claims that much of this brain training stuff is a waste of time.
Being a lazy blogger and not a fancy University Professor, I decided to put off further investigation for another time. Instead, how about some goofy facts about the difference between right handed and left handed people?
Lefties Have Some Cognitive Advantages
And not just in rote memorization. A recent left handed psychiatric research roundup (written by a leftie, btw), noted that:
Left-handed Pakistani subjects were significantly more intelligent than right-handed Pakistani subjects.
Left-handed college-educated men earned 15 percent more than right-handed college-educated men did.
But Lefties Are Also A Bit Nuttier
Sorry, lefties, but research suggests you're more likely to have certain mental disorders.
Like, a unusually large percentage of left-handed or ambidextrous people have autism, dyslexia, stuttering, or neurodevelopmental disorders.
Oh, and, um, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and pedophilia.
(The numbers are still really small though. But just in case you were feeling all cocky about the being smarter and more financially successful than us poor right handed folks.)
So where do you all fall on the left/right continuum? Done any brain training, and did it help make you more intuitive or creative? And for the lefties, I imagine being left-handed in a right-handed world comes with some challenges that we righties don't even realize?