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ESS in Handedness

Left-handedness has been found to be overrepresented in baseball and other interactive sports such as tennis, fencing, and cricket. Data collected over years concerning athletic performance in sports with varying degrees of interaction (including zero interaction) show that the smaller the physical distance between two athletes is in a sport, the higher the frequency of left-handed individuals. In particularly interactive and combative sports, left-handed individuals are able to execute unique plays that right-handed individuals never seem to possess. Take tennis for instance. Left-handers often hit the ball with something called a “lefty-spin” that can be tricky to deal with in a game. I can attest that; my sister, who is left-handed, and I both play tennis and in the past, I have often found myself at a lost after the ball oddly spins away from me as I take a swing at it. With that, left-handedness appears to be advantageous when it comes to sports. Left-handers in general tend to thrive in societies and environments that involve aggressive, competitive, or violent confrontations.

Yet, left-handedness is not an evolutionary stable strategy with most of the population being right-handed.  That is, the dominance of right-handedness in today’s society validates the theory of ESS. While left-handedness may be advantageous for interactive sports and situations involving aggressive interactions, it can be a disadvantage for most other developmental and environmental contexts. Left-handedness seems to come with several fitness costs such as lower height and shorter lifespan that play a role in restricting the potential dominance of left-handedness. The predominance of right-handedness can be explained by society’s specialization of the left hemisphere to enhance the development of language and motor skills. For many other reasons, left-handedness is not a preferable strategy and thus is rare in society compared to right-handedness.

In class, we investigated various payoff matrixes concerning two starkly different strategies in which one, both, or neither of the two strategies are ESS’s. These sources investigate the payoff matrix between left-handed and right-handed baseball batters and pitchers as well as reasons for the failure of left-handedness to be an ESS in society. As we see from the two sources, in the case of handedness, we see that one strategy (right-handedness) appears to be an ESS while the other (left-handedness) does not. Though left-handedness is not an ESS in society, it does have its advantages. If we consider the case of sports, left-handed athletes will always have an edge with their unpredictability and element of surprise when they confront right-handed athletes.




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