what does it mean to be ambidextrous?

Ask Us Expert
23 January 2012

Above: Image © Elke Wetzig, Wikimedia Commons

Some people write with their right hand, others write with their left. Have you ever wondered about people that can write with both hands? These people are known as ambidextrous.

Naturally ambidextrous people are extremely rare, but you can more commonly see people who have a different dominant hand for different tasks (e.g. writing with the right hand, while using a spoon with the left hand). These “mixed-handed” people make up about 1 per cent of the population. Left-handed people, the second most common type, make up about 10 per cent, and the rest of us are the garden-variety righties.

Did you know? The Latin word for “left” is “sinister". It was believed in the Middle Ages that left-handed people were possessed by the devil, so in English “sinister” came to mean “evil”.

What decides dominance?

The brain is responsible for controlling the muscles in your hands and feet. In most people, the left side of the brain is more developed. This means that the right hand and right foot will be stronger and will have better control. Other times, the right side of the brain develops better, which gives better control in the left hand. Sometimes, both sides of the brain are equally developed, so they are equally dominate. There are many theories about brain development, but scientists do not know why one side of the brain develops more than the other side.

Did you know? In 2007, scientists found the first gene that could contribute to the development of handedness by controlling the part of brain in charge of speech.

So is it worth-while to be ambidextrous? It could definitely give you an edge in some situations, especially in one-on-one sports. For example, an ambidextrous tennis player could surprise their opponent with unusual serves, while an ambidextrous combat fighter could start the fight by facing their opponent “the wrong” way, making them have to adjust. Pat Venditte, a minor league baseball pitcher, is ambidextrous. He is able to switch his throwing hand at any time. It is difficult for the batter to predict where the ball will be thrown for them to swing, which gives the pitcher an advantage.

Did you know? Greg Harris, a great major league pitcher who was ambidextrous, wasn’t allowed to throw with his left hand until 1995.

Learn More!

This Ask Us! answer was written by Inna Serikov and Laura Jameison, both of whom are regular contributors to CurioCity.

Article first posted March 28, 2011.

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Avatar  sara hossain

i am facing some mental health issues , and i think its because of ambidexterity..how can i get answers to my problems.. is there anyone to help me? if there is sara3.hossain25@gmail.com is my email address .please contact me. I need help.