I'm strongly 'one-handed' in that I can barely even write with my left hand. My wife is fairly ambidextrous, in that she's by default left-handed, but can also write with her right hand.

I've noticed that she's capable of driving in the dark with full, stressful concentration and still be able to talk. Whereas I'd have trouble driving in the dark and holding a conversation at the same time.

I've heard that this is because one handed people have developed a side of the brain more strongly than the other, whereas ambidextrous people have developed both. Anything that implies that ambidexterity is a disadvantage for multitasking would also be helpful.

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    $\begingroup$ Where have you heard this? Did you look for additional information yourself prior to posting this? What did you find? What do you interpret to be a more 'developed' brain? $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Jan 29 '13 at 10:43
  • $\begingroup$ Multitasking is about making multiple things that require attention at the same time. Being ambidextrous is about being able to write with both hands (and not being able to write with both hands at the same time). So I don't see any relation. As an example, I am not ambidextrous, but for some things I am left handed (writing, eating, tooth brushing...) and others right handed (sports, using mouse...). And that didn't help me at all to multitask: I can barely talk and drive in complex situations at the same time. $\endgroup$ Jan 30 '13 at 10:11
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    $\begingroup$ Here is some information on this apa.org/monitor/2009/01/brain.aspx $\endgroup$
    – Caesar
    Jan 30 '13 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ @StevenJeuris: Tried to look for some 'citeable' sources, but couldn't find a solid one yet. There's the common knowledge assumption that handedness is used to divide labor, but even Wikipedia doesn't cite this well (among humans). There's research that correlates handedness with brain development, but most are quite narrow in scope, like specific towards language or IQ. Made the assumption that if one dominant hand meant the opposite brain half was well developed, both dominant hands meant both sides were well developed. $\endgroup$
    – Muz
    Jan 31 '13 at 4:41
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    $\begingroup$ Looks like that idea has been challenged: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0028393208000675 $\endgroup$ Jan 31 '13 at 5:11

I can find no scientific evidence that supports the claim that ambidextrous people are better at multitasking.

  1. Less than 1% of the population are truly ambidextrous.
    [David Carey Bangor University]
  2. Your question cites two personal examples and offers no research on the matter. There could be numerous reasons a person is can conduct a conversation, whilst driving under stressful conditions, whilst another cannot. Factors such as driving and verbal skills could be factors.
  3. Issues regarding sex differences in multitasking are addressed well in this answer.
  4. The Corpus Callosum being the connection between the left and right hemispheres. The most general consensus is that the Corpus Callosum is enlarged in left handed and ambidextrous people [ref 1]. An enlarged Corpus Callosum, is not, necessarily, a good thing.
  5. Addressing the relationship between handedness and ability to multitask are addressed in the following study.

    Individual variation in hemispheric asymmetry: Multitask study of effects related to handedness and sex.
    Hellige, Joseph B.; Bloch, Michael I.; Cowin, Elizabeth L.; Lee Eng, Tami; Eviatar, Zohar; Sergent, Vicki
    Journal of Experimental Psychology:
    General, Vol 123(3), Sep 1994, 235-256.

    The study tests;

    (1) auditory processing of verbal material,
    (2) processing of emotions shown on faces,
    (3) processing of visual categorical and coordinate spatial relations,
    (4) visual processing of verbal material.

    This study concludes that the are some differences with processing

    phonetic or language-related processes.

  6. As a point of interest: It would appear that training that training to be ambidextrous does not improve brain function.

    Can Training to Become Ambidextrous Improve Brain Function? Michael Corballis, professor of cognitive neuroscience and psychology the University of Auckland in New Zealand

Vlachos Filippos* , Daloukas George, & Karapetsas Argiris
*University of Thessaly, Dept. a/Special Education , Volos, Hellas

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    $\begingroup$ Ah, a well cited answer. I'll take this as a no. $\endgroup$
    – Muz
    Aug 15 '13 at 7:00

This might not answer the question well enough to count as a good answer, but if you're interested in handedness in general, I highly recommend Stanley Coren's well-written and well-researched "The Left-Hander Syndrome."

If I recall correctly, the book doesn't address multitasking specifically, but it does address many issues associated with handedness, including lateralization of language and identity, development of mood disorders, and behavioral differences (especially risk of injury) between left- and right-handers. You might get some good pointers by reading the references.


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