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Creativity

Are Left-Handers More Artistic Than Right-Handers?

New study reinvestigates the link between left-handedness and artistic ability.

One of the most common conceptions about left-handers is that they are more creative or artsy than right-handers. After all, great artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, and Rembrandt were supposed to be left-handers.

So is there actually any hard scientific evidence for the assumption that left-handers are more artistically creative than right-handers?

Older studies at least point into this direction. A 1970s study from the University of Cincinnati found that that among students who majored in music and the visual arts, there were more left-handers than among students who majored in natural sciences (Peterson, 1979).

Two years later, a study from the University of Virginia utilized the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking to measure creativity in 96 left-handers and 96 right-handers (Newland, 1981). This test assesses fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration in thinking using a number of tasks. Analysis revealed that left-handers demonstrated greater creativity on all four scales of this test, but it could be argued that the test assesses general creativity in thinking, rather than artistic creativity.

A new study from the University of Groningen in The Netherlands investigated the relationship between left-handedness and creativity in a decidedly larger dataset of 20,539 participants, 56% of whom were left-handers. Headed by Fleur E. van der Feen, the Dutch research team used an online questionnaire to assess creativity in left-handers and right-handers (van der Feen et al., 2019).

First, they asked the participants to rate themselves with regard to artistic creativity using a scale from 0 to 100. In line with the common belief that left-handers are more artistically inclined, left-handed participants judged themselves to be more artistically creative than right-handed participants.

But were these differences in self-judgment actually backed up by any measurable differences in behavior? To find out, the scientists asked participants how often they engaged in different artistic activities such as creating images, music, writing and storytelling, plastic arts, and performing arts.

The result was somewhat surprising: There was no difference between left-handers and right-handers regarding the actual amount of time spent on artistic activities.

Nevertheless, the researchers found an effect of handedness: individuals with a strong preference for using one hand for all activities (either the left or the right) spent more time on artistic activities than those with only a weak preference for either hand. Thus, greater specialization of the hands was found in the artistically gifted, irrespective of whether they were more skilled with the left or with the right hand.

References

Newland GA (1981). Differences between left-and right-handers on a measure of creativity. Percept Mot Skills, 53, 787-792.

Peterson JM. (1979). Left-handedness: differences between student artists and scientists. Percept Mot Skills, 48, 961-962.

van der Feen FE, Zickert N, Groothuis TGG, Geuze RH. (2019). Does hand skill asymmetry relate to creativity, developmental and health issues and aggression as markers of fitness? Laterality, epub ahead of print.

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