Why do we Get Confused Between Left and Right?

We are many who confuse the left and the right. In fact, it is estimated that almost 20% of the population has problems making this discrimination automatically. The reason for this is in a very specific area of ​​our brain: the angular spin.

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That’s right, striking as it may seem, there are many of us who confuse the left and the right. Sometimes, it is enough even for someone to give us instruction during a yoga class or while driving, to doubt our intuition. Beyond labeling ourselves as clumsy, we must understand that this differentiation is in a complex neurological process.

Somehow, a good part of us is well known that phrase “give me that right… No! from your other right. ” This theme always raises some laughter from our close circle; However, it should be noted that it is an aspect of great transcendence and seriousness. Something like this can not only cause us some mishap while driving.

Also, those errors are known at the surgical level, where more than one medical team has operated on the leg that was not or removed, for example, the wrong kidney. The latter happened in 2000, as they explain in a study published in the British Medical Journal. Urologist John G. Roberts removed the organ on the wrong side, causing the patient’s death by leaving him without the only functional kidney.

They are, without a doubt, regrettable mistakes and in which the stress factor also increases this type of tragedy. However, something that neurologists recommend is that it is worth resorting to some kind of mental strategy. Stop a few seconds to clarify where the right is and where the left can avoid, without doubt, small errors of undesirable consequences.

One of the factors by which we confuse the left and the right is by mere distraction. This type of discrimination requires that we be able to focus our attention for a few seconds; something that we do not always do.

When we confuse the left and the right, why does it happen?

Some people point out that we confuse the left and the right because we have a high IQ. In this sense, note that there are no conclusive studies. It is known, that yes, that about 20% have this problem more frequently and that 99% of us have ever been wrong. Let’s see, however, what science tells us.

Differentiating the left from the right is not easy

Many may laugh, but discriminate where the left is and where the right requires an effort for our brain. In fact, it’s easier to know if something is up or down. Differentiating whether something is on one side or another regarding our position implies a very complex neurobiological process.

In this discrimination we must integrate processes that involve sensory and perceptual information, our memory and even the function of language.

All this has to do with our cerebral lateralization, the way in which we organize information and how we process everything that surrounds us.

Therefore, identifying where our right is and where our left in a thousandth of a second is not something simple or automatic.

The angular rotation in the parietal lobe can explain why we confuse the left and the right

There are those who confuse the left and the right constantly. Far from being something punctual, it is that eternal but it makes us difficult to distinguish, orient ourselves and even have a good coordination to do yoga or dance, for example.

A study carried out by Drs. Michael Hirnstein, Uri Bayer and Anne Ellison and published in the journal Neurology indicates that the area that regulates coordination in discrimination is the angular turn in the parietal lobe. Some people have less activation in this area, hence the consequent problems to discriminate both orientations.

However, there are more serious cases, in which this area presents a greater dysfunction giving shape to what is known as Gerstmann syndrome (Gold et al., 1995). In these conditions, the following symptomatology also appears:

  • Agraphy (problems to write).
  • Acalculia (difficulty to assume mathematical competences).
  • Confusion to discriminate the left from the right.

What can we do to not confuse the left of the right?

We are many who confuse the left and the right. What can we do in these cases? Well, something that neurologists and psychologists recommend is that we accept that everyone, absolutely everyone, can make a mistake in this matter.

Factors such as stress or being in an environment with many sounds can cause us at some point to make an error (which could be serious if you are behind the wheel).

Therefore, to avoid these errors, it is best to focus our attention.

Likewise and for day to day, there is a very simple technique to differentiate the left and the right. To do this, we place our thumbs at a right angle to the index finger. The hand that represents an “L” in the correct orientation will be the left.

Finally, note that there are games and exercises that we can download on our phones and that will help us improve our orientation and laterality. At the end of the day, this is not a competition to be facilitated only in the smallest. We adults also benefit from this type of mental exercises.