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Healthy Community Healthy You – Dominant hand use – Right vs left

By   /  June 23, 2024  /  No Comments

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Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough – From the moment we learn how to use our hands, one side seems to feel more comfortable than the other. Shortly thereafter, we determine which will be our dominant hand that we use throughout life. How does this choice come to be, especially when nearly 85-90% of people are “right-handed”?

Historically, being left-handed has been the minority. Using scissors, knives, and desks were not accommodated for those who didn’t fit the norm.  Discrimination and stigmatism against “lefties have gone away. However, right is still associated with “correct” and left comes from the Latin interpretations of “sinister”.

DNA doesn’t determine which hand we are destined to use. From an evolutionary standpoint, if being left-handed was a disadvantage, it would have phased out and disappeared. From a combat perspective, to fight and defend yourself as a lefty is an advantage because most people are used to fighting against righties. Today this can also hold true for sports like fencing and other one-on-one sports.

We know which hand we favor by different life skills.  We know by the strength and ability when we write, throw a ball, use a fork, and/or when you reach for something. These motor skills don’t require us to pause and think which hand do I use? We just know. Even when we clap our hands, we place our dominant hand on top without even thinking about it. Typically, by the time we are almost 1 year old, we have the dominant hand established.

More research is needed to determine the exact reason we have a dominant hand and how this is determined. Brain development and/or environment can be influential, but this is yet to be validated. Some children might mimic their parent’s and use the hand their mom/dad uses. By school age, if a hand has not been established, typically the education system will guide the child and help them learn which hand will work best for them. It’s a skill to be ambidextrous and a rare ability that could be advantageous especially in the world of sports. We even wave hello and goodbye with our dominant hand.

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