Brain and Body

New Study Finds Link Between Handedness and Mathematical Ability

May 6, 2016 | Johannes Van Zijl

Close-up of a pencil and sudoku puzzle

It’s more complex than previously thought!

According to a recent study by the University of Liverpool, a relationship between handedness and mathematical skills exists.

Previous studies have claimed that individuals who are left-handed are more skilled in mathematics than their right-handed counterparts. Now, these latest findings suggest that a correlation between the two does in fact exist, but it’s much more complex than experts had previously thought.

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Psychologists from the University of Liverpool and The University of Milan conducted a study involving more than 2,000 students between the ages of 6 and 17 years of age. The students were asked to complete numerous mathematical tasks, which included some problem solving and simple arithmetic.

The student’s handedness was then assessed by the Edinburgh Handedness Inventory — a test measuring the extent to which a person is right or left handed. Once the team of researchers knew the handedness of the students, they analyzed the results in relation to how each student performed in the mathematical tasks.

Liverpool psychologist, Giovanni Sala, who conducted the study, stated in the media release,“This study found there is a moderate, yet significant, correlation between handedness and mathematical skill. Moreover, the amount of variance in the maths scores explained by handedness was about 5-10%, a surprisingly high percentage for a variable like handedness.”

“We also found that the degree of handedness and mathematical skills were influenced by age, type of mathematical task and gender. For example, the most lateralized children — that means those who were very one-sided either very left- or very right-handed — tended to underperform compared to the rest of the sample. However, this effect disappeared in male left-handed adolescents, who performed much better than their peers,” Sala continued.

According to the researchers, the results are only indicative of a link between handedness and mathematical skills. Future studies will have to assess how handedness influences an individual’s mathematical skills, as this was not addressed in the current study.

The findings were presented at the British Psychological Society 2016 annual conference held in Nottingham in April.

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