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On the Other Hand

, 216 pages

15 halftones, 4 line drawings

August 2017



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On the Other Hand

Left Hand, Right Brain, Mental Disorder, and History

Since the late Stone Age, approximately 10 percent of humans have been left-handed, yet for most of human history left-handedness has been stigmatized. In On the Other Hand, Howard I. Kushner traces the impact of left-handedness on human cognition, behavior, culture, and health.

A left-hander himself, Kushner has long been interested in the meanings associated with left-handedness, and ultimately with whether hand preference can even be defined in a significant way. As he explores the medical and cultural history of left-handedness, Kushner describes the associated taboos, rituals, and stigma from around the globe. The words "left" and "left hand" have negative connotations in all languages, and left-handers have even historically been viewed as disabled.

In this comprehensive history of left-handedness, Kushner asks why left-handedness exists. He examines the relationship—if any—between handedness, linguistics, and learning disabilities, reveals how toleration of left-handedness serves as a barometer of wider cultural toleration and permissiveness, and wonders why the reported number of left-handers is significantly lower in Asia and Africa than in the West. Written in a lively style that mixes personal biography with scholarly research, On the Other Hand tells a comprehensive story about the science, traditions, and prejudices surrounding left-handedness.

Howard I. Kushner is the Nat C. Robertson Distinguished Professor of Science & Society Emeritus at Emory University and John D. Adams Professor of History Emeritus at San Diego State University. A visiting scholar in the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition at the University of California–San Diego, he is the author of A Cursing Brain? The Histories of Tourette Syndrome and American Suicide: A Psychocultural Exploration.

"Kushner, a distinguished historian of science and medicine with a deep knowledge of neuroscience, identifies an extremely interesting and puzzling set of issues around the phenomena of left-handedness, handedness in general, brain asymmetry and laterality, and questions of left brain/right brain dominance. Illuminating."

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