Lefty men may think more like women

Last week I attended a presentation at which the speaker suggested left-handed men "think like women."

For example, (this presenter had a doctorate in educational psychology) a right-handed man would answer the question, "How was your day?" by saying "Fine." A left-handed man might say, "But first, tell me "¦ how was your day? And he'd listen with interested attentiveness.

My unmarried, urban-dwelling daughter happens to be left-handed. I told her about this and she immediately text-messaged a new male acquaintance (who's about to get a master's degree in psychology) asking about his handedness — and his thoughts on this topic.

This fellow turned out to be a right-hander (I could tell she was disappointed), but he had some fascinating observations. He said left-handedness denotes creativity and intelligence — an ability to multitask. (Even if he's not a lefty, he knew she was one ... so he still gets points).

I wanted to know more. Male left-handers (based on a Johns Hopkins University study) who have attended college are 15 percent richer throughout their lifetime — they're 26 percent richer if they graduated from college. They're notably better at many types of sports — some are quite famous.

Well, that's interesting. I suggested to my daughter the next time she encounters an attractive male who asks for her telephone number, she might give the guy pencil and paper and say, "Okay, write it down." She smiles indulgently, rolling her eyes (just a bit) in response to my comment — but I think she might have stored the idea away for future reference.

She's young. There's time.

In terms of age, a British study found that 11 percent of men and women ages 15-24 are left-handed, but only 3 percent in the age 55-64 category. Only 1 percent of people over age 80 use their left hand predominantly. Maybe that reflects the "hand-prejudice" that existed in earlier decades — when lefties were retrained and/or forced to convert to more "typical" handedness.

Back to the issue of "how left-handed men think." I cannot seem to get this out of my mind.

My right-handed husband warns me this column may turn out to be "a yawner." Undaunted, I ask him to make a huge batch of popcorn. I dip one piece in diluted food coloring and then spread the (literally) thousands of individual pieces of popped corn (including the single pink one) out on a table in front of us. Research suggests the left-handed man ("actual" or "converted") will use the "visual simultaneous" method to identify the colored piece of popped corn and scan the field of corn. These "think-like-a-woman" guys are able to process several threads of information simultaneously. The right-handed male will labor over the popped corn analyzing it almost one piece at a time.

Your guy might surprise you in his ability to quickly find the single piece of colored corn. No matter what the result, if he goes along with the popcorn demonstration at all, he definitely gets points. If he balks, just go ahead and eat some popcorn together. Consider the whole experience "food for thought."

But be sure to ask him how his day has gone — listen well.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human services at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at s.johnson@oregonstate.edu or call 776-7371, Ext. 210.

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