Despite the popular view that lefties are more naturally talented, it’s righties who pull down 10-12% higher salaries, data from the US and the UK finds.
The higher wages amongst right-handers are probably due to the fact that they have, on average, greater cognitive skills than left-handers (Goodman, 2014).
Dr. Joshua Goodman, the study’s author, writes:
“Compared to righties, lefties score a tenth of a standard deviation lower on measures of cognitive skill and, contrary to popular wisdom, are not over-represented at the high end of the distribution.
Lefties have more emotional and behavioral problems, have more learning disabilities such as dyslexia, complete less schooling, and work in less cognitively intensive occupations.”
Around one in eight people are lefties, with the rates higher amongst men than women.
Historically, lefties have been subject to remarkable linguistic discrimination:
“…left-handed writers were thought to be possessed by the Devil, generating the modern sense of the word sinister from sinistra, the Latin word for left.
The English word left itself comes from the Old English lyft, meaning idle, weak, or useless.
The French word for left, gauche, also means clumsy or awkward.”
In modern times, though, the left-hander has got better PR, Goodman explains:
“If anything, left-handedness has come into vogue, with modern proponents who argue that left-handedness is overrepresented among highly talented individuals.
Proponents of this view cite either anecdotal evidence, such as the fact that four of the last seven US presidents have been left-handed (Gerald Ford, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama), or studies that purport to demonstrate unusual intelligence…”
The reality, though, as Dr. Goodman writes, is somewhat different:
“Lefties work in more manually intensive occupations than do righties, further suggesting that lefties’ primary labor market disadvantage is cognitive rather than physical.
Those likely be left-handed due to genetics show smaller or no deficits relative to righties, suggesting the importance of environmental shocks as the source of disadvantage.”
It’s probably not handedness itself that causes these deficits, rather that being left-handed is a proxy for some other cause — likely something much more sinister.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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