Angelique Chrisafis, Arts correspondent Guardian
Over the centuries they have been beaten on the knuckles, locked up, ridiculed and prevented from reproducing in case they spawned freaks.
Now left-handers are facing another affront. A psychology professor told the Guardian Hay festival yesterday that society will never stop being biologically and culturally dominated by right-handers at the psychological expense of those who hold their pencil in their left hand.
Chris McManus, a professor of psychology and medical education at University College London, trawled thousands of years of the history of cells and culture – from “left-handed” amino acids, to stone age tool-making practices and Giotto frescos – and found that “right equals good and left equals bad” in common perception.
In his book Right Hand, Left Hand, he noted how expres sions for the word “left” had become terms of abuse in every culture – something that New Labour might already be aware of.
“Our society is organised according to right-handers. Left-handers are the last of the great neglected minorities,” said Prof McManus, who is a right-hander with a left-handed mother and daughter.
In Britain around 13% of men and around 11% of women are left-handed, compared with 3% before 1910. Left-handedness coincides with high incidences of genius and creativity, and also autism and dyslexia.
“The one thing that will change the suffering of left-handers is to get engineers to see that for 10% of users, their designs are still back to front. Scissors, microwave doors, power saws and water gauges on the side of kettles are a constant reminder. Psychologically, left-handers still claim to have problems. The social consequences are immense.”