Well, yes, you can change your handedness. Most people don’t even think about doing this unless they’ve had a catastrophic injury to their dominant hand. These people must change, but can you change your handedness because you want to? Of course, you can.
It’s not only your handedness you are changing but also how your brain works with that hand. Your brain is wired in a way that helps it make your dominant hand work the way it does. So, when you change handedness, you are rewiring your brain as well.
What Happens When You Switch Hands?
Clare Porac, a professor of psychology at Penn State Erie, says humans are born with two genes: handedness, the dextral gene, or the chance gene. The dextral gene is the dominant gene and creates right-handedness. The chance gene, however, is just that, a chance. That means that the chance genes can decide left or right-handedness. Ten percent of the time, it determines left-handedness. We know that because ten percent of the world population is left-handed.
Porac also says that the nerves connecting our hands to the motor skill areas of the brain use separate nerve sets for each hand. However, those wires seem crossed. The right hand is connected to the left side of the brain and vice versa.
When it comes to the dominant hand, the nerve to brain pathway is well-traveled since this is the hand that the person uses all the time. When a person changes hands, the brain activates areas that mainly lay dormant. These connections have to be worked out and strengthened, just like building atrophied muscle.
Most people don’t change handedness just for the heck of it. Most change due to an injury that requires the use of their non-dominant hand. Many handedness behaviors can change with work and practice.
It can be easier for left-handers to change than right-handers because of the dominant right-hand world in which we live. Lefties have already experienced the necessity of using their non-dominant hand.
Switching handedness can take some time to change, as it’s not just simply switching hands. It’s also rewiring the brain to work with the weaker hand to make it dominant.
As mentioned above, the switching of handedness changes the dominant hand and changes the brain. Your brain goes through thought processes for the dominant hand for which it’s wired.
A study of converted left-handers found that their brains are organized and how hard certain regions work changes with the change in handedness. Some brain areas continue to act like those of a person using the left hand as dominant. Other parts switch to a right-handed pattern. Stefan Kloppel of University College London wonders if these people suffer from the extra attention playing out in their brains. They have yet to find that answer.
Handedness and Writing
When a person switches dominant hands, it’s not as simple as just changing hands. There’s more to it. The brain has to change the way it makes the hands work. Usually, the left side of the brain has control over the right hand when writing. It works opposite to those who are left-handed. This fact doesn’t mean that when you switch the dominant hand, the brain switches to the side used to control that hand. It’s more complicated than that. You’re hardwired a certain way when you are born, and it’s no simple task for those things to change.
Koppel and his team tested converts ( left to right-handed), left-handers, and right-handers in a simple task where they pressed a button with symbols indicating the hand they should use to push the button. Throughout the test, researchers monitored the subjects’ brain activity with MRI.
For left-handers, the movement of the brain was most active in the right hemisphere as expected and vice versa for right-handers. This test included natural lefties who switched hands of their own volition. The activity changed for the converts, those who were forced to adjust to their right hand. The activity in the right side of the brain was more significant in those forced to change to right-handed writing. It appears to me that those forced to become right-handed also forced the brain to change, which may have led to increased brain activity. Perhaps the brain still has to fight for a converted lefty to be able to write right-handed.
Another set of brain regions involved in planning movement refused to switch. That part of the brain continued as though the person were still using their left hand. The stubborn regions were more active in those forced to change than those who remained left-handed. “They still look like left-handers, but even more emphasized,” says Klöppel, whose results are published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
So, when a person is forced to change dominant hands, their brain activity increases. I didn’t find any research to state this, but I think that those forced to change dominant hands also cause the brain to try to change, leading to more activity because the brain is forced to change.
In the end, yes, you can change your handedness. Not many people choose to do so to change their dominant hand. The change usually comes about because the left-handed person was forced to change or an injury to the right hand. However, changing your dominant hand also changes the way your brain works when it comes to writing.
The brain also works harder in those forced to change handedness, whether from the old-fashioned idea that left-handed was bad or an injury.
My husband had a stepfather who forced him to become right-handed, and it’s interesting to know that his brain may also be conflicted because of the forced change. What do you think? Have you had experience with anyone who had to change their dominant hand? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.
About 25 years ago an art teacher suggested I try drawing, painting with my left hand. I did, and began using my left to do tasks my right was doing, brushing my teeth, combing my hair and most interesting painting, I felt like another person, in painting I felt free. It changed my life.
Today I’m still painting left handed and my right still wants to participate. I write poetry with my left and am less inhibited and more creative than my right could possibly be.
Has any research been carried out on the phycological effects when a young left handed child is forced to become right hand dominated .
Only asking this as I was one of those young children that’s was forced to change handedness .
There is this study looking into the long-term consequences of switching handedness. It does touch upon the phycological effects, breifly. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6758284
How has it affected you if you don’t mind me asking?
I was born left handed but changed to be dominant right handed since I was baby. My mom forced me to used my right hand since my Dad was left handed. Basically he wasn’t in my life so she didn’t want me to be left handed like him. I always thought it was interesting I’m now right handed but born left.
I found this article so interesting. I was left handed as a child and forced to use my right hand for writing in the first and second grade. Our teacher made about 5 of us sit in a row and sit on our left hands when we were learning to write. Before the switch I was able to form letters and words correctly. Once the change was forced on me all my letters were mixed “d” became b it almost was like a forced writing dyslexia. To this day I have to spell check because when I am typing I inadvertently switch letters in the middle of a word ie “girl” becomes “gril”. On my maternal side starting with my grandfather, my aunt, myself, my cousin and two out of three sons are all “lefties”. We live in different states so it is not a copied behavior. My parents are both right handed. Aunt and I were of a generation that were forced to switch hands. Not only were our early writing effected.but both noticed that the we have no sense of direction. We have to think very quickly when we have to make a right or left turn. The younger members of the family were not switched and they don’t have any of these issues. It did not affect reading comprehension or composition. Just effected the mechanics of writing. The fun fact I can use both hands when I am painting, housework, doing everyday things. I studied other languages, I never had an issue of transposing letters when writing in that language. Maybe because I learned to write in those languages after my writing hand was switched from left to right. Well, it’s the differences that makes the world go around.and turns out we do think outside of the box.
Hi Adriane, thank you for sharing your fascinating lived experiences with us and I’m glad you found the post interesting.