News » Features

Southpaws

Unsettling new findings from out of left field

by

Page 4 of 5

A Southpaw in the Soup?

In 2006, a survey conducted by a team of Toronto Polytechnique psychologists and socio-anthropologists (directed by Dr. Aaron Schlosstein, a great-grand nephew of Helmut Schlosstein) heralded a new round of research on lefties. The main thrust of that TP study was to investigate the relation between motor orientation and intelligence quotient, and their controversial conclusion was that left-handers have, on the whole, considerably higher IQs than their right-handed counterparts.

A flurry of similar studies followed, and the findings were, without exception, in concurrence with (what has become known as) "the Schlosstein Curve," which holds that the average IQ of lefties ranges between 10 points-30 points higher than right-handers, codependent on other factors such as education, nutrition and the ambient culture.

This was such a shock to orthodox behavioral scientists some began to suggest that in the long run, it might be advantageous to right-handed children to convert them to left-handers. Many young, upper-middle-class parents, always eager to give their children any advantage they might, were quick to act on that suggestion, and by 2010, in urban centers from Boston to San Francisco, charter schools opened that enrolled only "righties" whose parents wanted their youngsters raised in the ways of left-handedness. Gone are the knuckle-slapping yardsticks and the humiliating duncenkömpf caps of yesteryear, but in many of these "Turn Left" charters, there is the use of mild electroshock when the child makes the mistake of picking up his crayon or lunch-time spork with the wrong hand. Each student is equipped with a battery pack and conductor lead running down their right arm to their fingers. When that conductor makes a connection with a wired utensil, desk drawer handle, toilet paper dispenser, etc., the student receives a jolt, usually of no more than 24 volts.

Criticism of this practice--called "behavioral retro-engineering" by some--has grown in recent years, and reached a peak in 2012, when Samantha Beacons, a second-grader in the Wade Boggs Academy of Amherst, Mass., failed to remember which hand she should use with the doorknob on the entrance to the girls' restroom and was stunned with an unusually strong charge due to improper wiring on her battery pack.

(Samantha was not seriously hurt, but to this day, she wets her pants every time she sees a doorknob. Her parents have had to install knobless doors throughout their home.)

Upon hearing Samantha's story, Dr. Frank Burns of the Smiley Burnett Childrens' Foundation had had enough. In the fall of 2012, he began a survey to determine exactly how many of the other surveys, from the 1930s on, had been conducted by left-handed researchers. His findings have rocked the motor orientation community. Of the 1,684 studies on left-handed behavior that have been conducted in North America, Western Europe and the old Soviet Union during the past 80 years, all but 14 of them were led by, or commissioned by, lefties. Of the 14 that weren't, all but two were conducted by ambidextrous researchers.

As Dr. Burns was accumulating data for his study, he began to notice other patterns among left-handed populations that roused his curiosity.

"At first, I thought it was just an interesting coincidence that so many left-handers were congregated into the same small niche activities," explained Burns. "For instance, it's mathematically unlikely that both Bud Abbott and Lou Costello would be lefties, given the relative rarity of the condition. But they were, and it didn't bother me--not until I found out that both Oliver and Hardy were also lefties, and all three Stooges (sic). Then when I learned that Jerry Seinfeld and George... uh, what's his real name?... you know who I mean, that Costanza character... I thought to myself 'There's something else going on here.'"

The path that Burns trailblazed has been followed by others curious to see if there were other fields dominated by lefties. The conservative Trump Institute for Higher Excellence made the astonishing observation that Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Fidel Castro are all left-handed.

"Doesn't that tell you all you need to know?" commented Donald Trump. "I've hired a very, very excellent private investigator to go to Venezuela to find out if Hugo Chavez was a lefty, and I have a feeling that what he finds out will be very, very interesting."

Other studies have determined that, while there are always exceptions to the rule, southpaws have an unusually high concentration in the areas of banking, aerospace engineering and neuropathology.