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Why are some people left-handed? - Daniel M. Abrams

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Today, about one-tenth of the world’s population are southpaws. Why are such a small proportion of people left-handed -- and why does the trait exist in the first place? Daniel M. Abrams investigates how the uneven ratio of lefties and righties gives insight into a balance between competitive and cooperative pressures on human evolution.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Daniel M. Abrams
  • Director Lisa LaBracio
  • Animation Artist Krystal Downs
  • Sound Designer Michael Dow
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore
Can cooperation and competition affect the evolution of left-handedness or right-handedness in a population? Researchers Daniel Abrams and Mark J. Pannagio have researched this very topic and presented it in this TED Ed lesson. Read the article: Shedding Light on Southpaws and find out more about their research. Listen to an Academic Minute interview of the author here!

Are you a “lefty” or a “righty?” If you are a lefty, you share the same trait with people like Barack Obama, Carl Sagan, Alexander the Great, H.G. Wells, and Richard Simmons. They are all left-handed too! Visit this site and find out more people who share this trait with you. Time Magazine’s Top Ten Lefties includes Oprah Winfrey and Ned Flanders. Will you be a top-ten lefty someday too?

Still unsure about how people become left handed or right handed? Read this article for more information or watch this PBS Digital short: Why are some people left-handed? Is being left-handed still and evolutionary mystery? Brain Pickings has some information about this topic! Right Left Right Wrong has nearly all of the science behind handedness. Take a look at it and find out more!

If you are a lefty, you may be feeling “left” out of society, but there are many reasons to celebrate your uniqueness! Read: 11 Little Known Facts about Left-Handers and find out more. Being left-handed can be quite advantageous when it comes to creativity and music. Although not proven scientifically, there are some quite talented and creative left-handers out there! Check out NPR’s : “Uncommon” Sound of Left-Handed Guitarists and then visit Gibson Guitar’s site and listen to some of these “southpaw” musicians like Jimi Hendrix and Paul McCartney.

Finally, looking for a reason to celebrate? August 13 is officially Left-handers Day!

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Daniel M. Abrams
  • Director Lisa LaBracio
  • Animation Artist Krystal Downs
  • Sound Designer Michael Dow
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • See more