It always seemed cool to me to be ambidextrous. People who can do things with both hands are more versatile; if you’ve ever broken your dominant hand, you know how useful this skill can be. As I began to do research for this experiment, though, I discovered a number of other reasons to become ambidextrous – and they have to do with the two halves of our brains, or “hemispheres.”
Unfortunately, there is a lot of hype and pseudo-science surrounding the idea of brain hemisphere dominance. There are a few things that are clear though:
- The two brain hemispheres are responsible for different tasks
- The right side of the body is controlled by the left side (and vice-versa)
- We each have a hemispheric preference (or dominance) which may effect how we make decisions (thanks to #1)
Recent research has suggested that there is a reason humans are predominantly right handed, and it has to do with the formation of language. It is also very interesting to watch what happens when we sever the connection between the two hemispheres. There are examples where people cannot coordinate their actions when this connection is cut, so one hand is doing one thing while the other hand opposes this action. For example, one hand might be setting plates on a table and the other hand removing them! Clearly there are some very interesting things going on in the communication between our two hemispheres!
I cannot say for sure that learning to use the other half of my body will result in a better “balance” between the usage of my two hemispheres. Certainly there are lots of products targeted at businessmen out there which claim to aid in thinking with the other side (or both sides) of your brain. This is one of the things I am most curious about with this experiment: aside from developing an interesting skill, will I notice any… cognitive changes?
But before I get ahead of myself, let’s take a look at the experiment itself.
My Definition of Ambidexterity
I no longer play any sports regularly, so there is not much reason or opportunity to learn to become ambidextrous with a hockey stick (for example). On the other hand I do write with a pencil frequently in my language learning experiments. Like all my experiments, I have no interest in adding superfluous tasks to my daily life. Therefore I will be concentrating on tasks that I do anyway. If I can go about my day with the same comfort and skill using my left hand, I will consider myself ambidextrous.
How I will Become Ambidextrous
As I have said, my goal is to change my normal routine. Naturally I will attempt to do everything I do with my right hand now with my left, but here are some examples:
- Writing with a pencil (2 hours a day) while studying
- Using cutlery / drinking from a glass
- Brushing my teeth
- Reaching for objects
In addition, I will change some of my habits, such as:
- Putting my watch on the other wrist
- Putting my belt on the other direction
Just like with creating a language bubble, my intention here is to live in a “left handed world.”
How I Will Quantify my Results
I have already timed myself writing the alphabet with my right hand and my left hand; I will take weekly recordings of these values to quantify my progress. Of course, speed is not everything – but other metrics are much more difficult to quantify. As usual, I will be making use of my journal to capture the “human element.”
The first of the data has already begun to come in and the results have been wonderful. My writing speed and confidence has improved, and I have a lot of observations to make about how it feels to be learning this skill. Stay tuned – once I reach full competency I will publish the results!
Are you ambidextrous? Do you have any ideas on how I can improve this experiment? Let me know below!