Paths of Causality

It turns out, there is a gene that predisposes to left-handedness. Fascinating stuff. But this is the kind of article where you wish you could ask more questions:

Australian research published last year found left-handed people can think quicker when carrying out tasks such as playing computer games or playing sport.


And French researchers concluded that being left-handed could be an advantage in hand-to-hand combat.

First of all, that sounds like a cool study. But wait a minute, the implication here is that being left-handed somehow means your brain is different, and this modified brain makes you better at hand-to-hand combat. Okay, maybe that’s the case, given that left-handers are faster at sports and such. But what about the possibility that, simply because you’re more adept at using your left hand, you can beat your opponent who’s more accustomed to fighting righties? Maybe it’s a whole lot simpler than brain chemistry?

However, being left-handed has also been linked to a greater risk of […] having an accident.

Okay, now I know they’re screwing with us 🙂 I suspect the only thing going on here is that left-handers are forced to live in a world made mostly for right-handers, including all the machinery we handle on a day-to-day basis. I mean, if left-handers are quicker at sports and better at hand-to-hand combat, why would they also be more prone to accidents?

I’m not claiming I have the answer here, just saying it’s interesting to think about the causality path. Sometimes, the cause might just be that you actually use your left hand more than your right, not that your brain is wired to use your left hand. It would be good to have a control with left-handed people who were forced to use their right hand as children and effectively became righties, although I guess that practice has become outdated enough that the pool of such individuals is likely small.

But in all scientific studies, it’s crucial (and fascinating) to think not just about whether there is causality, but also about the path this causality takes.






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