Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Left handedness in mathematics and physics

  1. May 19, 2013 #1
    are there are disproportionate number left handed people in math and physics?

    there are a huge disproportion of lefties in architecture, because their right brain is better developed.

    they can better visualize in 3-d.

    anyone got more info on this?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 19, 2013 #2


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Are you sure about that? I know there is left-handed bias in many sports, but I was not aware of any bias in architecture. Is there a source you can site on this? I think it would be interesting if true.

    For further reading:

  4. May 19, 2013 #3
    I would say exactly the opposite. Math and physics are very much left-brain sciences, so my guess is that right-handedness would prevail, although I don't have any solid data on the statistics, and I'm sure there are some notable exceptions. I for one happen to believe that there is a lot in the folk concept of "right-brain" versus "left brain" thinking and thinkers. It's one of those seemingly oversimplified psychological theories you learn in school that is actually accurate to some degree. There's a large literature on the subject. See Geschwind and especially Gazzaniga's new book, "Human":


    I feel that a fundamental problem in the math teaching curricula, at least in the US, is that math and perhaps to a lesser extent physics teachers are primarily left-brain thinkers. Left brain thinkers more than right brain thinkers are much more comfortable dealing with abstract symbols in a hierarchical-sequential fashion than right brain thinkers. Right brain thinkers tend to learn mathematical relations better through analogies to real-world experience. They just don't seem to "get it" through solely working with abstract symbols and concepts like left brain thinkers do. This creates a huge problem when you have left brain instructors, which almost all math teachers are, trying to teach right brain students, like myself. I've found that, in order for me to learn higher mathematics, I need to find that needle in the haystack presenter that themselves think in a right-brain fashion. It's not easy to find, but they're out there. Again, though, this just has been my personal experience.

    Edit: Btw, I'm definitively right handed, but I consider myself primarily a right brain thinker, so, although I think handedness can be an indication of whether you tend toward left brain or right brain thinking, it's definitley not a hard rule.

    One interesting case study on the left-brain right-brain issue is Einstein, who I believe was fundamentally a right brain thinker that got lucky enough to balance his talents or capacities by hitting math hard at an early enough age. We see this in his relative ambivalence in, poor mastery of, and reluctance to rely heavily on mathematics in his early modeling. It's difficult to imagine how he could have come up with those fantasitcal abstractions of GR just by crunching through the equations of existing models. It was the right-brain "architect" in Einstein that came up with GR, it wasn't found through mathematics, math was put to it later.

    Although he is remembered as saying that his whole GR experience gave him new sense of respect for math, he still retained a certain ambivalence to it in his later years, typically relying on his assistant "calculating horses," as he called them, to crunch most of the numbers in his models. To me, that is the signature of a right brain thinker. You can contrast that approach to that of Heisenberg, Dirac, Pauli, and many others of the quantum realm, all of which I think were definitively left brain thinkers. Although Schrodinger was likely a right brain thinker.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  5. May 19, 2013 #4

    Notice that only 18.8% of left handers have clear right language dominance. Left handedness is not at all an automatic sign of right dominance for language.

    Math is bilateral but with an important left side area:

    I suspect, therefore, the OP's assertion that architects have more developed right hemispheres is bogus. If any side were preferred, we'd expect that left tempo-parietal junction to be "pumped up" from the exact calculation and fact retrieval needed for descriptive geometry.
  6. May 20, 2013 #5


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

  7. May 20, 2013 #6


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I'm ambidextrous, what does that make me?
  8. May 20, 2013 #7


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

  9. May 20, 2013 #8


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    The same as me... special... :blushing:

    From my observations, there is a strong correlation between levodexterity and insanity. A large proportion of actors, artists, writers and musicians are left-handed; most of them are also nuts. What I found really peculiar was that when writing fiction I usually did it left-handed, and when writing non-fiction I used my right. Depressingly (how ironic) I haven't been able to write a word of fiction since going on the antidepressants for my ADD around 20 years ago. That is particularly annoying right now, when I'm trying to assemble a mystery novel.
    Also, when drawing I use my right hand for mechanical stuff and my left for "art".
    Of course, my drawing and writing are now done on the computer, so handedness is irrelevant.
  10. May 20, 2013 #9
    The word "sinistrality" means left-handed. It's where we get the word "sinister" from:devil:
  11. May 20, 2013 #10


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I know, but as a good little Atheist I don't like to reference religious terms.

    edit: Never mind. I just re-checked. I had been led to believe several decades ago that "sinister" was meant as "demonic" and was then applied to southpaws. Apparently, that is no longer the case. Sorry.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook