Do left-handers make good IT professionals?

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Do left-handers make good IT professionals?

Winston Churchill, Fidel Castro, Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein and Pele all have one thing in common - the dominant use of the left hand, writes Yvonne Gleeson.

The members of this elite group demonstrate typical left-handed traits, including a love of creative pastimes, such as music, drama and art, and an aptitude for ball games and sports that require good hand-to-eye co-ordination. But is there any room for left-handers in the traditionally non-arty, non-sporty IT industry?

The Left-Handers Club is currently compiling a picture of how hand preference, or more specifically right-brain dominance, can affect choices in career, sporting and leisure pursuits, and whether left-handers really do gravitate towards particular life choices.

According to Keith Milsom, who runs the Left-Handers Club, the results so far indicate that left-handers' creativity seems to give them an advantage in Web design. "More than 10% of Web designers are left-handed, and there are some indications from previous research that they are better at spatial awareness and three-dimensional thinking," he says.

There has never been any conclusive reason found as to why some people are left-handed and others are not. In fact, only 10% of the world's population are lefties, according to research carried out by the Left-Handers Club. However, there is a scientific explanation why left-handers are more adept at certain activities that right-handers.

The brain is cross-wired so that the left side controls the right-handed side of the body, and vice-versa, so hand dominance is connected with brain dominance on the opposite side. The left hemisphere (right hand)handles the linear thinking mode that controls language, writing, logic, maths and science. The right hemisphere (left hand) handles the holistic thinking mode, which controls functions relating to music, art, creativity, fantasy, perception, genius and emotional expression.

Milsom believes society discriminates against left-handers in very subtle ways. For instance, London Underground's ticket gates require the tickets to be inserted with the right hand. He also suggests that few surgeons are left-handed because the surgical tools and layout of the operating theatre are not comfortable or safe for left-handers to use.

However, compared to other periods in history, today's left-handers have it easy. During the dark ages they were burnt as witches because left-handedness was associated with the devil. Later, during Victorian times and into the early 20th century, they were forced to write with their weaker right hand - a practice that is said to have led to left-hander George VI developing his famous stutter. And because they were forced to use tools and machinery designed for right-handed people, a general perception arose that left-handers were awkward and clumsy.

Fortunately, there is little to deter left-handers from following a career in IT.

Ian Shapton, a left-handed Lotus Domino administrator at investment outsourcing company Cogent, ended up in the IT industry during the boom of the 1980s. He says small things such as writing a cheque are not easy - the stub of the book gets in the way - but he believes his left-handedness has given him a competitive advantage when playing squash and football. And it has not stopped him building a successful career in IT.

"Being left-handed has not helped and if anything, it has hindered me, but only negligibly," he says.

Did you know?
  • Left-handers can adjust better to seeing under water than right-handed people
  • One in four Apollo astronauts were left-handed (the US average is one in 10)

  • Four of the five original designers of the Apple Macintosh computer were left-handed.


Left-Handers Day
On 13 August the Left-Handers Club will be celebrating Left-Handers Day in London. The event will highlight the problems left-handed people face on a daily basis. To find out more or to take part in the club's survey of left-handers go to www.left-handersday.com/.

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This was first published in August 2002

 

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