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Model predicts prevalence of left-handedness in sports populations

Research has been published describing a mathematical model that successfully predicts the ratios of left-handers to right-handers in different sports.

Daniel Abrams, one of the researchers, is quoted in a press release saying:

The more social the animal — where cooperation is highly valued — the more the general population will trend toward one side. The most important factor for an efficient society is a high degree of cooperation. In humans, this has resulted in a right-handed majority.

The press release explains that cooperation favours same-handedness, for example for sharing tools. Physical competition, for example when fighting, favours the unusual.

The model created using this hypothesis accurately predicted high levels of elite left-handed athletes in competitive sports: baseball – “more than 50 percent among top baseball players” – and boxing, hockey, fencing and table tennis at “well above 10 percent (the general population rate)”. The model also predicted low levels in golf – “only 4 percent”.

Commenting on the process of mathematical modelling in general, Adams is quoted in the press release saying:

As computers and simulation become more widespread in science, it remains important to create understandable mathematical models of the phenomena that interest us, such as the left-handed minority. By discarding unnecessary elements, these simple models can give us insight into the most important aspects of a problem, sometimes even shedding light on things seemingly outside the domain of math.

Press release: Shedding Light on Southpaws.
Paper: A model balancing cooperation and competition can explain our right-handed world and the dominance of left-handed athletes, Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

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