I’m left-handed, and I can say without a doubt that I am neither smarter nor more creative than my right-handed counterparts. But then, I’m only one very humble example in a cohort that includes roughly 10% of the human population. Given that handedness is rooted in a mysterious mix of biological, genetic, and environmental factors, scientists have long sought to better understand it. That includes studying the possible existence of a relationship between left-handedness and intelligence.
What have they found? In honor of International Left Handers Day, which is today, we revisited some of the latest research. Unfortunately for my fellow lefties out there, the findings may not offer the confirmation of superiority you were hoping for.
Consider these three meta-analyses out of the University of Athens. Researchers Eleni Ntolka and Marietta Papadatou-Pastou included 18 studies of IQ scores involving more than 22,000 people, part of a larger systemic review of 36 studies involving more than 66,000 people. Most of the studies in the review found pretty much zero difference in mean scores between right-handed and left-handed participants. In the meta-analysis that compared right-handers and left-handers specifically, the researcher did find that right-handers had the slight edge. Their mean IQ scores were just a tiny bit higher.
But don’t panic, lefties: While the difference between the groups was statistically significant, it was too small to have any real-world effect. Moreover, it vanished when the largest study in the analysis was removed. The researchers concluded: “Overall, the intelligence differences between handedness groups in the general population are negligible.”
What about left-handedness and creativity? According to a 2019 survey of more than 20,000 people, lefties rated themselves as more artistically inclined on a scale of 1 to 100, so it’s clear that lefties think they’re more creative. But as noted by Psychology Today, the lefties in that same study did not spend significantly more time on artistic pursuits than righties.
It’s also important to note that “creativity” is a broad concept, multifaceted, and not easy to measure even under the best of circumstances, meaning lefties might just need to be satisfied with secretly believing in their heart of hearts that they’re more creative than righties, rather than waiting for science to make the definitive call.
In the meantime, if you were looking for an objective sense of your own creativity, there’s always this four-minute word test, recently cooked up by McGill University, Harvard University, and the University of Melbourne. You don’t have to be left-handed to take it, but as far as this humble lefty is concerned, it couldn’t hurt.