Life's Little Mysteries

Why Are Some People Ambidextrous?

Surprisingly, very little is known about what makes people ambidextrous, or able to use either hand effectively.

Research has made some links between handedness and hemispheres of the brain. Studies have shown that people who have a preference for using their right hand tend to have brains in which the left-hemisphere is dominant.

Some scientists have suggested that for ambidextrous people, neither hemisphere in the brain is dominant.

It is generally understood that there are four variations of handedness. There are people who are right-handed, left-handed, mixed-handed (when people prefer using their left hand for some tasks and their right for others), and people who are truly ambidextrous.

According to a study that was published in the January issue of Pediatrics, approximately one-in-100 people are ambidextrous, meaning they can use either hand for various (but not necessarily all) tasks with ease.

The exact number of people who are mixed-handed is unclear, and people who are truly ambidextrous where they can use either hand to carry out all tasks with equal proficiency are very rare.

Ambidextrous athletes are even rarer, and can be valuable commodities to their team.

The New York Yankees have an interesting prospect in Pat Venditte, a young ambidextrous pitcher currently playing in the Yankees' minor league system. The 24-year-old hurler made his debut for the Yankees in late March during spring training, pitching with both his right and left hand.

Denise Chow
Live Science Contributor

Denise Chow was the assistant managing editor at Live Science before moving to NBC News as a science reporter, where she focuses on general science and climate change. Before joining the Live Science team in 2013, she spent two years as a staff writer for, writing about rocket launches and covering NASA's final three space shuttle missions. A Canadian transplant, Denise has a bachelor's degree from the University of Toronto, and a master's degree in journalism from New York University.