Ambidexterity is a unique trait some people have and in many cases, it’s one that many people want to have. It’s the ability to favor both hands while doing certain activities such as writing, throwing a ball, or boxing. However, this ability has lately come under scrutiny.
Once considered a sign of intelligence, research has been proving that this is not a cause or a byproduct of high I.Qs. Also, other studies suggest that those with this trait may be prone to neurological disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD) or other learning disorders. However, like the high IQ argument, ambidexterity is not the cause of it.
The trait was associated with various geniuses throughout history. Michelangelo, Albert Einstein, writer Ian Fleming, and Benjamin Franklin were reportedly ambidextrous. James Garfield, the 20th U.S. president reportedly was able to write Greek with his left hand and Latin with his right hand, at the same time! (Saunders, 2011).
However, ambidextrous people were also known to be left-handed people forced to learn how to use tools or instrument made for right-handed people. In other cases, parents had forced left-handed children to convert to the other hand (this is especially true in the Middle East where left-handedness is frowned upon since that hand has been used traditionally for sanitary purposes).
Many studies point to the rarity of someone with natural or true ambidexterity. It is believed that one out of one hundred people are naturally ambidextrous.
Due to its uniqueness, researchers have pondered this trait’s effect on the brain. Did this create a super intelligent person?
A 2010 “Scientific American” report by Emily Anthes, suggested otherwise. The article detailed a study made by a team of European researchers. They assessed nearly 8,000 Finnish children with ambidextrous abilities and reported that mixed-handed children (as they referred to them) were at an increased risk of linguistic, scholastic, and attention-related difficulties (Anthes, 2010).
On top of that, the findings claimed that by age eight, these children were about twice as likely to have language and academic difficulties as their peers. And, by the time they were 16 they were twice as likely to have symptoms of ADHD that were more severe than those characterized as being right – or left-handed.
Some speculations were given to the possible reason why ambidextrous children were prone to ADHD. Much of it focuses on the way the hemispheres of the brain interact to control certain features. The left hand is controlled by the right hemisphere; the right is controlled by the left side of the brain. Those who are left handed often have stronger skills controlled by the right side of the brain; vise-versa for right-handed individuals. It’s believed that those with ADHD and/or ambidexterity have a different way of communicating these skills.
The difference in the way the brain operates in a person with ADHD and a person with ambidexterity is merely coincidental, at this point. In other word, further studies need to be made. What is certain is the researchers behind the 2010 study are not convinced that this unique trait causes ADHD.
“Handedness is really a very crude measure of how the brain is working,” Alina Rodriguez, a clinical psychologist at King’s College London and the study’s lead author was quoted as saying.
While ambidexterity may not be a cause of high intelligence or ADHD, it may well be a product of social values and current technology. Many people, especially left handed people, have had to convert or adapt to using the other hand in order to perform task made for right-handers. Still, while this trait will ultimately not make a difference in one’s intelligence or disability, it may be a marker or an indication that a person may have ADHD.