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Penn State Behrend Professor Debunks Left-Handed Myths
She is right-handed, but Professor Clare Porac (Twitter: @hilefthander) is a member an international left-handers club. “Well, I guess it’s for those who support left-handedness, too,” she laughed. Porac, 70, is a psychology professor at Behrend who specializes in human laterality, which includes handedness. Eleven of every 100 people worldwide are left-handed.
Erie Times-News: How did you get into this research subject?
Clare Porac: Back in the 1970s, I was very interested in a phenomenon called eye dominance because my training was in visual perception. I used to do some consultation with personal injury lawyers in British Columbia. A lawyer called me with a client who’d injured his hand in a water-skiing accident. They wanted to claim he was permanently disabled. He asked about people’s ability to switch their handedness, and I found there wasn’t much data on that. So that was in the early-90s. I started out studying people with hand injuries and it went from there.
ETN: What are some of the myths you commonly hear about left-handedness?
CP: That left-handers are smarter or more creative. They are not, unfortunately. Lab studies and population studies show no differences. The data on whether left-handers are more musical or better at math is ambiguous. Right now, it’s tending toward no. There’s also a notion that they’re more athletically talented, particularly in fencing and tennis. There’s no positive research showing that, but it’s been proven in some sports that being left-handed has advantages.
ETN: What are some facts about left-handedness?
CP: Left-handers are more able to use their right hand than right-handers are to use their left. There’s also been no familial ties to handedness. Most children of left-handed parents are right-handed.
ETN: Why is there such an interest in this subject?
CP: Left-handers are very well-organized. There are all kinds of groups and Facebook pages. As I’ve been interviewed over the years, the same questions arise. It seems to me there’s a disconnect between what researchers know and what the general public knows about left-handedness. Left-handers are really curious about themselves. Why are they this way? Are they really different from right-handed people? And I guess a lot of those questions we still don’t have solid answers for.
ETN: Is the research evolving on left-handedness?
CP: Absolutely. Particularly the genetic research, the original thought that there must be one genetic site for handedness. Now that the genome has been mapped, they’re searching on particular chromosomes. We know particular genes are involved in brain development and we look on those particular chromosomes to see if right- and left-handers differ. The current notion is there might be 30 to 40 different sites to look at.
If you prefer, you can view the podcast of the interview between Sarah Stemen and Professor Porac here.
Eleven percent of the world’s population are left handed. What makes a person left handed? Is there anything else different about a left hander in their brain or personality? Clare Porac is the author of a forthcoming new book, Laterality: Exploring the Enigma of Left-Handedness. This book summarizes scientific studies on handedness, sorting the fact from fiction in commonly held beliefs about handedness, drawing from neuroscience and psychological studies. Readers will understand how handedness develops in the brain, how malleable it is, how different cultures treat left-handedness, and the extent to which handness is or is not associated with other differences in the brain and personality.
To pre-order your copy, you can order online via the Elsevier Store. Apply discount code STC215 for 25% off the list price and free shipping worldwide!
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