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Let’s Hear It for the Left Hand!

In commemoration of International Left Handers Day on Aug. 13, we’d like to give a big hand to southpaws, and to left hands in general.

Consider that the ranks of lefthanders include such luminaries as Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci, Jimi Hendrix, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Napoleon, several presidents, and all 351 residents of Left Hand, W.Va. (Einstein was not left-handed, contrary to some reports, and neither are polar bears, a surprisingly common myth rejected by Polar Bears International).

And if you haven’t given your left hand its proper due, consider what it can do for you:

By squeezing a ball with the left hand, which activates the right hemisphere of the brain, participants in a 2010 study in Israel scored higher on a creative problem-solving test than those who squeezed a ball with the right hand and others who did nothing with their hands.

In a 2012 study, German researchers found that right-handed athletes were less likely to choke under pressure when they clenched their left fists before competition. By activating the brain’s right hemisphere this way, these athletes were limiting the possibility of overthinking their movements or ruminating (associated with the left hemisphere) and more likely to rely on motor skills developed over years of performance (associated with the right hemisphere).

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