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Math Science

The Science of Handedness 258

Hugh Pickens writes "Representing only 10 percent of the general human population, scientists have long wondered why left-handed people are a rarity. Now a new study suggests lefties are rare because of the balance between cooperation and competition in human evolution and a mathematical model was developed that predicts the percentage of left-handers by sport based on each sport's degree of cooperation versus competition. 'The more social the animal—where cooperation is highly valued—the more the general population will trend toward one side,' says study author Daniel M. Abrams. 'The most important factor for an efficient society is a high degree of cooperation. In humans, this has resulted in a right-handed majority.' If societies were entirely cooperative everyone would be same-handed, but if competition were more important, one could expect the population to be 50-50 because cooperation favors same-handedness—for sharing the same tools, for example while physical competition favors the unusual. In a fight, for example, a left-hander would have the advantage in a right-handed world. The mathematical model accurately predicted the number of elite left-handed athletes in baseball, boxing, hockey, fencing, and table tennis (PDF)—more than 50 percent among top baseball players and well above 10 percent (the general population rate) for the other sports. For other sports like football or hockey where team cooperation is paramount, it is ideal for all individuals to possess the same handedness. For example, in football, blocking schemes are often designed to protect a quarterback's blind side. As a result, it is beneficial for all quarterbacks on the roster to possess the same handedness to minimize variations of the offensive sets. 'The accuracy of our model's predictions when applied to sports data supports the idea that we are seeing the same effect in human society.'"
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The Science of Handedness

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  • by Giant Electronic Bra ( 1229876 ) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @06:00PM (#39839781)

    No, it wasn't actually...

    "Cooperation favors same-handedness—for sharing the same tools, for example. Physical competition, on the other hand, favors the unusual. In a fight, a left-hander would have the advantage in a right-handed world."

    This is simply taken axiomatically as a starting point for the study. I see no indication that it was determined by any sort of analysis. I'm not even sure such an analysis is feasible. You'd have to know what activities people carried out in prehistoric times, how, and what the value of cooperation was for each one. There could be various advantages and disadvantages of same or opposite handedness depending on the activity, etc. The entire concept of their study rests ENTIRELY on the validity of this same-handedness is better for cooperation proposition. I'm not saying it is untrue, but without demonstrating it to be true and to what degree I cannot see how any meaningful conclusions can be drawn.

A sine curve goes off to infinity, or at least the end of the blackboard. -- Prof. Steiner