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What is an Ambidextrous Person?

By G. Wiesen
Updated Jan 21, 2024
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An ambidextrous person is someone who is able to use his or her right and left hands equally well, especially with regard to tasks that require fine manipulation or detail. Most people are either left-handed or right-handed, which means they have a dominant hand they most easily use when writing, playing sports, or doing other tasks. An ambidextrous person, on the other hand, is someone who is able to use either his or her right or left hand when performing such tasks. This is fairly rare, especially when someone is ambidextrous from birth, though it can be learned with practice.

There are basically two ways in which someone can become an ambidextrous person: through birth or through training. Someone who is ambidextrous by birth is able to use his or her right and left hand equally well, regardless of practice with either hand in particular. This is fairly rare, and only about one in 100 people are born ambidextrous. There is some research that indicates that being born ambidextrous may be a warning sign of potential brain damage, and that individuals who are naturally ambidextrous may be more prone to developing learning disorders or mental health issues. This is likely not a causal relationship, but a connection between how the brain of an ambidextrous person develops.

The more common way in which someone can become an ambidextrous person is through training and practice. This is most common with people who are born left-handed, and who have to learn to use their right hands to compensate for the fact that many tools, including scissors and many computer mice, are designed for use by right-handed people. With practice, someone who is dominant with his or her left hand can learn to use his or her right hand as well, becoming ambidextrous in the process. This can also occur if someone injures his or her dominant hand, forcing the person to compensate and develop a certain degree of ambidexterity.

There are a number of areas in which an ambidextrous person can thrive and find advantages to utilizing each hand equally well. A number of sports and athletic activities can be easier for someone who is ambidextrous. Baseball players, for example, often try to practice hitting with each hand, known as “switch hitting,” allowing for more effective batting off different pitchers. Playing musical instruments can also be easier for an ambidextrous person, especially an instrument that requires the use of both hands in synchronicity such as a piano.

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Discussion Comments

By celt56 — On Oct 13, 2016

I can remember my mother switching my fork from my left hand to my right and training me to always use my right hand. I believe that in the 50's and 60's lefties were often retrained to use their right hands because being different in any way was bsd. As an adult, I discovered I am left side dominant in many parts of my body (feet, hands, etc.). I play guitar, banjo, and have dabbled in other string instruments where left-hand dexterity and strength is important.

Most strangely, I am left-eye dominant, which means that I must aim and shoot left handed, which feels very odd to me. I write right-handed but can do a number of things left handed. I applaud those people who have posted that they have learned to be ambidextrous. It's a great skill to have!

By anon989137 — On Feb 21, 2015

Since I was young I could write with both hands, but slowly as school demanded more writing speed. I had to choose and it seemed logical by my parents to assume that I would be using my right hand.

Today, I use both hands according to what I do. I’m a righty for certain tasks and a lefty for others. Yet if I start writing with my left, I feel the same relaxation as when I write with my right. The calligraphy has stayed at the grade it was decided that I had to use my right, but I have no problem on writing with my left on the contrary; it feels exactly the same. As for mental problems, let’s hope that I’ll stay “normal”.

By anon948730 — On May 01, 2014

I was born mixed handed. My parents (both righties) told me I was right handed, especially when I did certain things like left handed people do (they said: "is it not uncomfortable?" while I didn't even notice I was doing things that way).

At school, during gym lessons, I was put in the group of the lefthanders. Because of this I decided to learn to be ambidextrous about five years ago, and it was one of the easiest task I did. For example, I could draw left handed with just a half hour of practice. I used the mouse one day with the left hand (more with right hand, when I started to use the computer).

And yes, I do have a mental disorder (autism).

By anon946288 — On Apr 18, 2014

I've been training myself to be ambidextrous for about a year now and I can do stuff with both hands equally well now. I was formerly right handed, but I think I might have been left handed a long time ago and my parents made me be right handed.

By anon943932 — On Apr 04, 2014

I'm a lefty, though I can do some other tasks with my right hand. It doesn't mean I'm ambidextrous, though. It's just what hand feels right for me to use. I have below average motor skills and no dominant hand to account for it.

By anon341168 — On Jul 09, 2013

I've just discovered that I can write really well with both hands! I'm right handed, and I've never tried using my left for writing, then one of my classmate asked all of us to write our names using the other hand (if you're right handed, use your left hand and if you're left handed, use your right). When I tried, I was very surprised that I did really good at writing my name and what I think is amazing is that I wrote it in cursive! I'm not used to writing in cursive. My classmates actually thought that I practiced. I said I didn't, but no one actually believes me except my best friend.

I don't think that ambidextrous people are more prone to have mental disorders and stuff. I don't think I have any, or maybe I do. I can say I'm pretty talented. I play the piano, I'm good at painting and drawing anime (I'm actually working on a manga that I'm going to publish right now) and I can sing pretty well. My classmates say my voice is like Taylor Swift's.

I'm actually in the honor circle at our school, but I'm pretty lazy. I don't pass my homework and stuff, so I'm actually surprised that I still get to be in the honor circle. I'm good at memorizing stuff and that's why I'm always picked for quiz bees.

I'm actually proud that I'm ambidextrous (I'm not sure) Oh! I'm pretty used doing two things at the same time. I can't listen to my teacher if I'm not drawing or eating or doing other stuff and I talked to my teachers about it so they let me do anything like that when they are lecturing. I'm having a good life right now.

By anon306934 — On Dec 02, 2012

I'm a middle schooler. I'm wondering if I'm ambidextrous because I can write well with both of my hands. I catch better with my left hand better than my right is that ambidrextrous?

By anon302467 — On Nov 09, 2012

I'm very mixed handed!

While I have always had great handwriting and drawing skills with my left hand, there are numerous things that I've naturally used my right hand for without issue. I can barely use a computer mouse with my left hand, maybe because I've been using computers since I was four, and the mouse was always just on the right side? And I have no memory of ever attempting to use scissors with my left hand. Same goes with picking up a guitar, although I've never learned to play.

So, I use a butter knife with my left, a cutting knife with my right, a box cutter with my left, and scissors with my right! Also in tennis, I would serve with my right and then switch over to the left.

I'm also teaching myself to write with my right hand. My handwriting is pretty good, better than some natural right-handers, but visibly inferior to my left hand, with the exception of some calligraphy, in which case the two are more difficult to distinguish.

It comes in handy when taking class notes in a binder. I'll use my left for the left page and the right for the right page, and the rings will never get in the way!

It also comes in handy when I'm late to class in a lecture center and the entire row of left-handed desks are taken up by clueless right-handers. I can still use a right handed desk without sharing an armrest with the person next to me.

By anon257835 — On Mar 29, 2012

I can write two completely different sentences at the same time, and do all manner of mirror writing (upside down while right side up, backward while forwards, etc.). I can sew with both hands, bowl, play ping pong, and do other things with both hands. Some things I am more inclined to use one side or the other, but not everything feels natural with either side.

By animegal — On Nov 29, 2011

There is a guy in one of my classes that can use both hands and it is quite the novelty. He was showing off the other day and to be honest, being ambidextrous is pretty cool.

I wonder if there is a way for people to train themselves to be ambidextrous without needing to put one of their hands out of commission?

While being ambidextrous is a bit of a neat party trick, I imagine that it would be great to be able to switch back and forth between hands, especially when you have to write assignments. I know I get the worst hand cramps after working for a long time.

By lonelygod — On Nov 28, 2011

I have never met anyone who exhibits natural ambidexterity though I did actually become ambidextrous myself after I had surgery on my right hand and was forced to write with my left for months on end. It was actually a really handy skill to pick up.

I found that whenever I get pain in my right hand I can now easily switch to my right. It has really helped me regain my ability to work, even though I still have problems with my main hand. I suppose that everyone has the potential to be ambidextrous, it just takes a lot of practice.

By indemnifyme — On Nov 27, 2011

@Azuza - That's interesting that the description of an ambidextrous person fits your dad so well.

I'm not ambidextrous, and I don't know anyone who is. Truthfully, I always thought it would have been cool to be born ambidextrous. But after reading this article, I'm kind of glad I wasn't! Learning disabilities and mental health issues don't seem to be a very fair trade off for being able to do stuff equally well with both hands.

I know I could probably become ambidextrous if I really worked at it, but I just don't care enough to actively try to learn to write with both hands.

By Azuza — On Nov 26, 2011

What an interesting article! I had no idea that ambidexterity was linked to any kind of mental issues.

However, it kind of makes sense. My dad was born ambidextrous, and he has had some mental problems as an adult. He's also extremely gifted at playing the piano! I have to wonder if he would have become so accomplished at playing the piano if he was either right handed or left handed instead of being ambidextrous.

Anyway, I would be really interested in reading more about the connection between being ambidextrous and mental health issues.

By kylee07drg — On Nov 25, 2011

Though I have tried many times to write with my left hand, I simply cannot make legible words this way. I know that left-handed people usually write upside-down, and I just cannot maneuver a pen like this.

I started trying when I broke my forearm in school. I ended up having to have an assistant take notes for me, because there was no way I could have written fast enough with my left hand, even if it had been legible.

Is there a certain trick for right-handed people to learn how to write with their left hand? I just cannot fathom a way to make it happen.

By StarJo — On Nov 25, 2011

I started playing guitar at a young age. I am right-handed, so it was easy for me. When my left-handed friend asked me to teach her some chords, we quickly figured out that for her, it would be a challenge.

I have heard of some left-handed people turning a guitar upside-down to play it. That way, they can still pick with their left hand.

I had no idea how to teach her to play upside-down, so she ended up buying a left-handed guitar. She also took lessons from a left-handed teacher, and I'm sure he was way more understanding of her needs than I could have been.

By Oceana — On Nov 25, 2011

@seag47 – I did the same thing, and it really is hard to get used to! Once you have it down, the rewards of ambidexterity are great, though. You never have to worry about overexerting one hand, because the other one works just as well.

After a month or so of training, I was able to click through things nearly as fast with my left hand as with my right. Dragging the mouse across the pad to move the cursor was probably the hardest thing to adjust to, because even though it didn't, it seemed as if my hand had to move in the opposite direction. The best way I know to describe the feeling is that it's like having to write words backward so that they could be read in a mirror.

I am now fully ambidextrous. I feel like I have really accomplished something that will make my life easier.

By seag47 — On Nov 24, 2011

I started working as a graphic designer at a busy office, and my right hand quickly became sore and tingly from all the clicking and dragging I had to do each day. I had to work in a hurry to keep up with the deadlines, and my hand and wrist were feeling the pain.

That's when I decided to train myself to use my left hand. I moved the mouse across my desk and made myself do all my work with my left hand.

My boss walked by my desk, glanced at the mouse, and asked, “Isn't that usually on the other side?” I told him about my plan, and he thought it was a good way to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.

It was hard at first. I could feel my brain tingling as it tried harder to process the commands. I know that I was working more slowly, but at least my boss understood why I was doing it, and he supported me.

By bagley79 — On Nov 23, 2011

My right hand is definitely the dominant one, but since I was young, I have worked on becoming ambidextrous.

Even as a young person learning how to write in school, I was fascinated with being able to write well using either hand.

I don't know why this is something I was interested it, but still today find myself switching hands from time to time so I am just as efficient with my left hand as well as my right.

There have been times when I am sitting next to a person who is left handed when I am eating that this has also come in handy. It is easy for me to switch to my left hand to eat so we don't keep bumping in to each other.

This has also helped me out when playing sports. I can dribble a basketball just as well with my left hand as my right.

Being ambidextrous is something that most people would not even think about or realize that I am, but I enjoy being able to accomplish most things equally well regardless of which hand I am using.

By sunshined — On Nov 23, 2011

My daughter is left handed, and while this has its challenges, she is able to use both hands to do some things much easier than my son.

I think having this ambidexterity also helps her excel at playing the piano. She is an excellent pianist and can move the fingers on both of her hands equally well.

She can also pick up a pen and write legibly with either hand. If I try to write with my left hand, you can barely read it.

I think that being left handed is something that makes this easier for her than most people. There are so many things that are not made for left handed people to use, and at a young age she had to learn how to use her right hand, when her left hand was the dominant one.

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