Experiment Setup: Become Ambidextrous

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.”

 

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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:

  1. The two brain hemispheres are responsible for different tasks
  2. The right side of the body is controlled by the left side (and vice-versa)
  3. 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!

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Posted by:

Zane Claes
I post twice-weekly about using self-experimentation in order to find out what can improve your life the most. If you liked what you just read, why not subscribe via RSS, Facebook or Twitter?You'll find plenty of charts and data from my own experiments, handy resources to start your own, and general findings to boost your quality of life.
  • http://www.yearlyglot.com/ Randy the Yearlyglot

     Scan and post images of your writing so we can see it improve. :)

    • http://LifeByExperimentation.com Zane the Experimenter

      Will do! I have daily dated notes :)

    • http://LifeByExperimentation.com Zane the Experimenter

      Sure thing!  I have been dating all my writing so I have lots of data ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/stealthanugrah Fiel Mahatma Sahir

     This is going to be interesting, I can’t wait to see this. I don’t think this has been done before haha, great stuff man!

    • http://LifeByExperimentation.com Zane the Experimenter

      I tried to find other people on the internet who had done this to get tips but couldn’t find much!  I refuse to believe it is impossible though.  A friend’s dad works with burn victims and re-learning skills like writing with the other hand (or even with the feet!) is a common task they need to learn…

      • http://www.facebook.com/stealthanugrah Fiel Mahatma Sahir

        In Asian countries and lots of other parts of the world they punish(ed) you for being left handed. I heard stuff like children were forced so much into using their right hand that they became umm a bit odd or disabled, but I highly believe this is true as a result of using the other hand, but rather from getting beat for all this. 

        The reason as to why people use their right hand in all these countries is because you clean your area after a visit to the bathroom with that hand through a bucket and water, no toilet paper, soap and sink haha. 

        Anyways yes this is interesting, I really want to see how this goes. Very unique idea! You’re officially a first and pioneer on all these experiments in my book.

        • http://LifeByExperimentation.com Zane the Experimenter

           Ah, yeah, I experienced some small subset of this in China.  A left-handed colleague even went so far as to hide hide this fact from our Chinese contacts.

          Good point about the toilet paper thing – I had heard about that in India ;)  And thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/michaeljzak Michael Zak

    Buy a British car, stick shift preferable.   

    • http://LifeByExperimentation.com Zane the Experimenter

      Hah!   Risk of a fiery death aside, that’s a great plan :)

  • Ambisinistrous

    Do chopsticks. Also, if you’re naturally right-handed, it’s a lot easier doing mirror writing right -to-left with your left hand, a la da Vinci, than it is to go forward — reading what you’ve just written is harder.

    Re sports- you can practice throwing tai-chi-like, ball-less or frisbee-less, and improve in the privacy of your own room. Wrist shots in hockey are easy. Batting left is doable. Golfing left is just about impossible. Get left-handed scissors, corkscrews and serrated knives. And playing cards. Set your computer mouse to left-handed. Good luck and don’t bump into anything — the world isn’t built for lefties.

    • http://LifeByExperimentation.com Zane the Experimenter

       Great suggestions!  Chopsticks are definitely something I will be trying… I remember how hard my first weeks were in China.  Even though my skills weren’t bad, in a shared-plate scenario I came up short on food ;)

      I’ve heard about the mirror writing thing and it makes sense for developing muscle and coordination, but I really want to develop useful skills more than anything.  So I think I’ll stick with normal writing here.

      Oddly I’m already ambidextrous at golf but left-handed at hockey and baseball.  I like the idea of tai-chi!  I know some weightlifting workouts that simulate the action of throwing a ball, even…

      • Ambisinistrous

         Re golf – actually you’re right (left?), when I’ve tried golfing left it’s felt so awkward that I had to calm down, focus, take it easy and swing. The results were consistently more accurate although not so testosteronely, explosively, wildly satisfying.

        Re mirror-writing – close your eyes grasshopper and let the letters flow, your brain has already developed the muscle coordination. At least, that was my experience. Probably only useful if you’re a Renaissance genius, a secret code show-off/nerd, or a TV weatherman that has a clear glass window pane between you and the camera and needs to write backwards for your audience (yes, we had one of those here in Toronto).

        • http://LifeByExperimentation.com Zane the Experimenter

          Yeah, most things that are “hard” can be accomplished by slowing down, going back to the basics, and slowly adding complexity.

          Haha I wonder what the job posting looks like for that TV spot ;) 

  • Cerebrumaster

    I have always wanted to do something like this!  In fact, after reading this post, I have tried to use my left hand more.  My handwriting with my left hand is quite atrocious, so I will certainly need to practice it more before I can do my schoolwork left-handed.

    Just now, I tried writing left-handed, and was interested to discover that it was my natural tendency to write certain letters in a different direction.  For instance, I write the letter “o” clockwise with my right hand, but with my left hand, I wrote it counterclockwise.

    I am really enjoying your blog.  You seem to have a terrific life!

    • http://LifeByExperimentation.com Zane the Experimenter

      Learning to write with the left hand is proving very slow and tiresome, but the results are already showing :)  I’ll even have video to show you when I’m finally done (no real clue when that will be yet though).

      That’s an interesting point about the writing direction.  I have more or less been allowing my brain to choose how to compose the letters as long as they look okay.  I’ll have to pay attention to this.

      Thanks for the compliment!  I really enjoy writing this and it is a pleasure to see that others are getting something out of it.

  • Markbcv

    Yes huge benefits to developing ambidextrous ability. I use a toothbrush and shave comfortably with each hand. I have recently become proficient using cutlery with either hand.
    Very interesting using fork in one hand and spoon in other simultaneously on a large heartly serving of noodle soup! I write & shoot a puck left handed, throw a ball and play quitar right handed. Aids to skill development: I have 2 mouse pads and a wireless mouse, change hands several times each hour, ideally tossing the mouse back and forth like a ball :-)  Playing a keyboard or guitar helps educate your fingers ‘muscle memory’ as do specific practice finger movement exercises.

    Possibly apocryphal example I find impressive: everyone has heard of the Emily Bronte sisters, few of the brother. I read (but cannot find reference now) that he was ambidextrous and upon hearing or reading English could simultaneously translate and write Greek with one hand and Latin with the other. Couple of neural circuits involved there I venture…

    Further, in the movie Spirited Away a multidextrous character executes many operations at once. Makes you consider what an intelligent spider’s thought processes might be like.

    Thank you for an interesting post …

  • The Black Contrarian

    Yes. You could say I’m ambidextrous. I started back in March of 2005. Have I felt any cognitive changes? I cannot say. Back then, I was reading five hours a day ( I was in high school) while performing this experiment. If anything, I believe ambidextrous training is great for injury prevention instead of cognitive changes. Using the same arm over a period time, with inadequate rest, can lead to injuries. 

    If you have any questions just ask me or look up Michael Lavery. Lavery has a book called “Whole Brain Planet” which deals with ambidexterity. Personally, I believe the book is backed up by weak claims but might be what you are looking for.

  • Azg780

    ive recently started working on my left hand. one thing id note is the relative pressures of the first three fingers. id be interested to hear your comments on hand/wrist angle given the difference in writing towards the arm when writing righty and away from it when writing lefty. 

    • http://LifeByExperimentation.com Zane the Experimenter

      This is definitely one of the hardest things to get used to. Lefties really have to “wrap” their hand overtop of the writing, creating a sort of lowercase “n” shape with their wrist. I really went through a lot of experimentation to see what ultimately felt best for me in this department, changing the angle and pressure of my fingers until it started to feel natural. I’d say that you probably can’t really go wrong, to be honest. If it works for you, then it’s good enough :)

  • Mrglad9

    try to use the ambidextrous scissors. they are mixed. Also, try to cut with the left hand with a right-handed scissors and oppusite!!! try to type with one hand 30m and the second after also 30m. ;D

  • Mrglad

    im an ambidextrous!? Yes!

    • Mrglad9

      am I. Sorry :D

  • Cathie

    I’m curious whether you persisted with this experiment and if so what if anything you observed? In my experience, it is easier to do mirror writing, while writing from left to right, with my left (non-dominant) hand. I have tried writing with both hands simultaneously, starting in the centre of the page and writing leftwards with my left hand and rightwards with my right hand. I have also tried writing left to right, simultaneously. The latter is more difficult but produces a feeling that is akin to satisfaction or coherence. All in all, I notice an increased alertness when I practice simultaneous writing. Very interested in your observations.

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