Mixing Right and Left
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Philippe De Sainte Maresville, November 15, 2010
I’m going to talk to you about a particular “syndrome” that I have frequently noticed with native French speakers. I suspect that this syndrome would exist with native English speakers as well, but I don’t have data for this group.
Do you know people who tend to confuse left and right?—Not that they don’t know where their left and right is, but they mix up the words. Generally, if you ask them for directions you will notice that their hands point the correct way but their words don’t. The words right and left come out incorrectly, with no logic.
If you look at this syndrome in more detail you will notice that these people know exactly where right and left are, and if they concentrate, they don’t mix them up. However, under stress, time pressure, tiredness, or if the brain is occupied by other thoughts or actions, the words come randomly.
I know this syndrome very well as I have “suffered” from it since I began speaking many (too many) years ago. I have to be very attentive when using these words to avoid a mistake. Even 50 years after learning them, I continue to mix them. In fact when I give directions, especially long and complex ones or if I feel tired, I warn the other party to check with my hands and in case of difference to trust the hands, not the words.
For a long time, I felt abnormal, enduring this as a “defect” until five years ago when I started working on type and the brain. A researcher told me: “Don’t worry, you’re SF. It comes with the SF package. It is normal. It sometimes may also occur with NTs.”
I’ve started to investigate this subject in my typology practice, and have begun gathering my own statistics. Near the end of several typology sessions, I have told people about this syndrome without giving detail, just explaining that some people mix up right and left and emphasizing that it was not a “defect” but absolutely normal. I tell them that some people, even if they know their left and right, may sometimes mix up the words. After this comment I ask if someone is experiencing this confusion. Out of 20 people who confessed to left-right confusion, 18 had SF preferences and the two others had doubt about their true types.
My discovery shows also that this syndrome is more prevalent with left-handed people. I believe that this is due to the fact that there is a distortion between the meaning of the word and the physical reality. In French, left is gauche which also means awkward. Right is droite, which shares its root with the English word adroit and carries the same associations with skillful dexterity. But the reality for left-handed people is that their efficient hand (the “right” one to use) is their “awkward” (left) hand; and the truly awkward hand is their right one. So when you have already an issue with these words due to your type and you add the lexical confusion you have a high probability to mix up the words.
So why this is linked with type? Looking at a neurological model can provide some explanation. In fact there are several neuro-models being looked at as possible validations or explanations of typology. My favorite is the action/type model which is based on the research of Karl Pribram and Katherine Benziger. On top of providing a finer understanding of each type and its dynamic, it also gives indications about our motor type that can easily be observed.
To make it simple we can say, based on this neuro-model, that SF people have their “dominance” in their basal cortex.1 This part of the cerebral cortex is a lot more “awake” and “efficient” than the frontal part. Another characteristic of SFs is the fact that their two preferred functions are “driven,” one from the right (F) and the other one (S) from the left hemisphere. Having a preference on each hemisphere provides them with a strong inner reference of where their right and their left sides are, so they don’t have to think about it. So why do they mix up? In fact they mix up only when they talk. As I said before, if you look at their hands they are always correct. Only the language is wrong. The reason seems to be that the language area (Broca’s area) is located in the frontal lobe where SFs have no preference, so retrieving the correct word requires more energy and control. When there is pressure and lack of attention, their brain does the “minimum job” and selects the word “left” or “right” on a first-come basis. All other types (NT, ST, NF) have at least one preference driven from the frontal lobe, according to the Pribram-Benziger model, so access to the language area is less energy-consuming.
To summarize: for SFs, two characteristics of their brains appear to predispose them to give less attention to right/left word usage: 1) the fact that they have a strong inner representation of the right and left sides of their body, and 2) the fact that accessing the language area consumes more energy. As I said before, now I frequently ask people about this “syndrome” and I have to confess that I’ve been surprised at the results. When you set up a secure environment for people to confess it, you discover that a significant number of people are mixing these two words (at least for Francophones). Even more surprising, most of them are SFs. As I have no data for native English speakers, I would be very happy to get feedback from those of you who want to do your own investigation on this subject.
1 For more information on the physiological foundation of Jungian functions according to this model, see Benziger’s Thriving in Mind: The Art and Science of Using Your Whole Brain, (rev. ed., 2004).
I am a left handed INTJ and have problems with giving directions (eg. I say turn left while I mean turn right).
Im left handed.. and I “suffer” from this
I am a native English speaker and I definitely have trouble saying left and right correctly but I usually know the direction with my hands. People pointing out that I write with my right hand (as if this is a revelation) don’t seem to understand that I know the difference between the 2 sides of my body I just can’t say it properly with certainty. My husband complains because he says he can’t look at which way I am pointing to double check. I get it right about 50% of the time if I am rushed to give the word. I wonder if I would make the mistake in another language. I have studied other languages and have been fluent at times (though not now), but I don’t know if I made that mistake in French for example. Now that I must take my time speaking French it probably would not occur. However, I do notice that I have trouble mirroring my ballet teacher doing floor exercises if she is facing me. I have to carefully think about what she is doing to turn it around.
weird.. i have never been close to being an SF.. i have taken the test every year for many years.. seem to change very little though
gonna be interesting to see result from next year.. but i have always had trouble understanding left and right, also east and west.. does not make it easier in my mother toungue, that is not english, still have the same trouble
My type is an ENFP and I remember having left and right written on my sneakers when I was 4yrs old. It didnt seem to sink in at all and at 46yrs old I have always said the opposite and pointed in the right direction.
I am also an empath and as I explored meditation in my early 20s I had an experience of sensing my energy body and it crossed easily giving me the sense that I actually had two lefts and two rights. A light body left and a physical body left.
In recent years when practicing relaxation meditation and told to relax my left (or right foot), calf, knee, thigh and so on, I would observe my mind go to my right side of the body. When after some time i would feel something not right like my left was reallyon the opposite side. I would then feel like or have the sensation that I had two lefts. If I considered the right I would feel that way ablut the right too.
Has anyone else experienced anything like this?
I have always been un-co-coordinated and I do somethi gs left handed and others right. I am quite ambidextrious and when I was 5yrs old and had to write on the board to see which was my dominant hand – I wrote equally comfortably with both hands – to which the teacher replied ‘you cant write with both hands, you have to pick one’. So I asked what most people were and she replied ‘right hand’ – so the right I chose.
I wonder if there can be a fluid directional intelligence? I love getting lost because it is fun and easy to find your way to familiarity. I am also creative and academic and sit comfortably with ambiguity. (note my grandmother was the same).
I figured out I had problem when I was four years old. My mother had me set the table every night which posed no problem. And I obviously knew my right hand from my left had, but I always had to quickly think about whether someone was referring to the right “knife” hand or the left “fork” hand. I was an excellent student and always tested very high. I’m 71 and still often say right when I mean left and the other way around. My husband has learned to always look at which way I’m pointing if we are in the car. It’s sometimes annoying and embarrassing, but I’ve lived with it my whole life. I can also write backward with with my left hand (discovered back in about third grade) and right hand, but it’s easier with the left. One other little thing is finding it hard to read signs that are perpendicular. It’s interesting to learn after all these years that I’m not alone!
I’ve just done a test and have come out as INFJ.
Thank you for your enlightening article. It really lays out our `problem’ exactly. I don’t know what `type’ I am but have always had the problem of correctly verbalising left and right when giving directions etc. I have to consciously think for a moment, and sometimes look at my hands, to get it right. It’s the same for east and west. I usually picture a compass to get it right. I know the difference between left and right very well, and can read maps and find my way around with no problem, but my mind seems to take time and effort to connect the correct word with the intended action. Although I have a driver’s licence I’ve never used it, partly because I wouldn’t want to cause an accident by making the wrong left-right decision when under pressure. My sister has the same trouble and I’m interested to canvas others in the family to see if there is a pattern. We’ve often wondered how widespread this phenomenon is, and whether it is genetic. It’s very interesting to see that bilingual people report the problem in more than one language. So interesting. I am 50, a New Zealander of British and Irish descent, and right handed.
I’m INFJ, right handed, English speaking.
I came across this article because I too mix up left and right frequently. It’s frustrating when trying to give someone directions because I say whatever word comes to mind first even though I know which way to turn!
I also tend to mix up east and west, as well as number sequences (phone numbers for example…the correct numbers are there, just out of order).
Lowercase ‘b’ and ‘d’ tripped me up as a child, despite having higher than average reading skills. Though less frequently, I still accidentally switch the two as an adult. I seem to only be challenged laterally (I’ve never had a problem with ‘p’ and ‘b’ or ‘M’ and ‘W’).
I’m interested in why some of us have this issue!
Very interesting to read – I write with my right hand, but am mostly ambidextrous. My father is left handed and my daughter too, but I was flagged at school as problematic and feel that is the only reason I write with my right hand. I have equal use of both sides, mainly. I have always had difficulty distinguishing my left from right, but as stated in the article, if I really concentrate, I can manage.
Rather than looking at it as a disadvantage, I like to believe that neither side of my brain is dominant, and therefore I have no preference or leaning to either right or left.
I would imagine that the connotations of the language surrounding left-handedness have their effects on English speakers too. Sinistra (sinister) originally meant ‘left’, but evolved to mean ‘evil’ or ‘unlucky’, as all left handers already know.
Struggled all my life with this R & L confusion. Watching my hand signal is a better way to get directions, for sure! I have a hard time setting a table if I reach across the table…very frustrating & I have given up…just persevere!
I’m heavily INTP and struggle with this as well.
It’s problematic when giving directions or calling out threats to my team in competitive online video games. “The enemy is flanking us from the top right path.” Where “right” might actually be “left”, much to my friends’ and my own frustration. 🙂
I’m strongly INFP and have this issue too.
I have the same problem. I am a native English that is right handed. I also switch the letters of a two worded phrase sometimes. For example I would say wog dalking, meaning to say dog walking. what would that be. A mild form of dyslexia, or a off chute off my adhd because my m brains thinking to fast?
I not only confuse right and left, but + and -, constantly transpose #s, male vs. female (a dog that is male, I will always refer to as she and vice visa)..I’m 70yrs. and have tolerated this disorder for as 50yrs..A a child I was a severe stutterer, but now am fluent .
Can anyone put a label on this for me ?? It certainly hasn’t handicapped vocationally as I am a retired officer of a Fortune 500 company..
Just wondering….What is it called …
I, also, mix up left and right, in all the ways that the author of the article suggests. Only, I am an INFP — which was verified through taking several type tests over the years. (The first two were taken 7 years apart and in each case I emerged as an INFP.) It still frustrates me on getting directions wrong, especially when explaining them or when I see a roadsign that says, — say, “exit left” and I will atomatically think “exit right” and start to go right. This does not occur all the time, but it is frequent enough to be annoying to me.
I appreciate this article. I am a Corporate Communications Specialist who frequently mixes up left and right (and periodically, other “or” statements). Out of frustration I began looking into why and found this article. I am ENFJ – but I am borderline S/N and J/P. When I took the personality test for my employer, both were nearly in the middle. I am also left handed. Thanks!
Thank you for this very scholarly and researched response. In explaining E vs I to people I have counseled over the years, I described the E vs I as most people can function for short to moderate duration either alone or in an intensive socially interactive mode. Some people are energized when interacting with others, and run off of “battery” when alone. Others run off of “battery” when socially interactive, and will need down time relatively alone to “recharge their battery.
Many teachers and clergy are Introverts and run well on battery, but need down time to recharge. I am married to one. Others like myself recharge while socially interactive, and have to run off of battery when alone or in low interactive mode. In both cases most people can function well in their non preferred mode, but need recharge time in their preferred mode. This is a very unscientific explanation , but it has seemingly held true through 45 years of counseling individuals and couples, for what it is worth.
Regarding socionics reference, I think MBTI-dichotomies ISFP goes a lot more clearly to SEI/ISFp, yes, but the functions correlations are hard to really make.
In socionics, the E/I is basically about objects vs fields of interaction between them. This means, for instance, that someone focused on her subjective mood would be engaging in Fe, because it is the direct property of an object. Whereas, focus on her needs from another might be termed Fi.
It seems like this is quite different from Jung’s dichotomy, where object is used as a term for something “outside” yourself. Here, an object is held in contrast to its relations to other objects, so some internal property of oneself, to Jung a part of the “subjective factor,” would most certainly seem to be a property of yourself viewed as an object.
I think the only way to make the socionics concept intersect meaningfully with other commonly known ones is to include the static/dynamic dichotomy and know the analogies to basic physics.
For instance, if I viewed work done to an object done across a stretch, if I focus on the object at all instances, I would be focusing on what it took to do work to it throughout its transition, an energy-intensive process. But if I instead just viewed the relation between the two states as the important thing, this is a more “passive” and withdrawn look at the process.
Basically, fields being the relations abstracted away from direct influences on objects – an influence implies some kind of relation between entities, but in this case, we’re looking at influences as removed from the potential for collision and direct energetic transfer/interaction.
I think this corresponds, as far as I can see, better to the more modern versions of introversion/extraversion than it does to Jung’s version, albeit his version did contain many of the modern ones as a small subset, albeit had to be split up to conform to modern psychometric research (for better or worse, though, since those split-ups might or might not have been very relevant to his often intuitive, not so empirical, aims).
Hi ENTP here. So you are an ISFP. In socionics (very systematic variant of Jungian typology and separate from MBTI created by an ENTp/ILE/intuitive logical extrovert) would like to put you more likely under ISFp/SEI/sensing ethical introvert rather than ISFj/ESI/ethical sensing introvert.
I’m mix handed but fairly right handed in most uses (we are expected to use right most of the time). I have given handshakes with my “wrong” hand etc. I also have some dyspraxic features. So called bodily sensing is pretty weak in me (as is my environmental awareness). It is sometimes full on (dwelling in sensory experience) but most of the times I can barely stand up straight.
I know directions but I have no idea which hand is left/right without taking some serious time to reflect on it (mainly episodic memories where I have known my position and environmental detail such as certain wall).
Hey there…i am from india and seem to have the same problem…what can be done for a possible solution…for me it can also happen while driving..
Also wanted to add that i mix up east and west but have great sense of direction, as someone else mentioned
Great article! I am native Russian and just like English and French, our “right” is synonymous with “correct”, while “going left” in slang means “cheating”. I also have the syndrome of mixing left and right regardless if im speaking Russian or English. I was actually born a leftie, but was “forecefully” taught to hold the spoon in my right hand and later write too. I am not ambidextrous atm, but for the habits that were not re-taught to me i still use my left side.
I say left when I mean right, up when I mean down, and so forth. But I do know my right from left. Also, if I have trash in one hand and keys in the other I will throw away my keys and have to pull them from the trash. I often joke and tell people “listen to what I think not what I say.” And my other favorite is, “I meant to do that.”
Because of my struggles, I became a special education teacher. So maybe this “gift” has some purpose. But, since I retired life has gotten easier.
I posted in June of 2012, and since then have discovered that one daughter has been busted by my grandson who says that his mom frequently says the opposite direction of what she means. Like me, her hands are always correct, but the words are “whatever”
I had carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand recently and it was out of commission for a while. Since I am nearly ambidextrous the left hand took over nearly seamlessly. I do appreciate my right hand more after having it out of commission for a time.
I’m not sure that the ESTJ-ISTJ-ENFP family of designations really tells us much about the left/right confusion. In reading the responses it looks like it is all over the map. One frequent comment however is that the hands are always correct. One thing that I have noted however, is that when I am doing public speaking in front of hundreds of people, I don’t mess up and confuse words. It is more often when I am in one on one or very small group conversation, and I may well be mentally multitasking when the wrong word is used. Another dimension is that when someone is giving me directions as I drive, if they say the correct direction, I will often go the opposite, so the problem can be one of reception as well as transmission. My wife/navigator uses “your way” and “my way” and that always works.
I do think that there is probably a genetic component to this, and a study in this area would be interesting.
Very interesting article, thanks!
I am South Indian, and would classify myself as NT. I am right handed, but have always had the right-left, up-down confusion. Somehow north-south / east-west doesn’t confuse me as much as i visualize a map in my head or look at the sun’s position etc.
Intuitively, my sense of direction is very good – i never get lost. However I’ve managed to get others lost when giving them directions. I am not sure if language has anything to contribute in my case, as in most Indian languages, the words for right and left have no relation to right/wrong, good/awkward etc.
interesting, I have been mixing up left and right for years and still do, Im Have Masters Degree In Psychiatric nursing so this article was very interesting to me. No problems with dyslexia or mixing anything else up. I am left handed though i grew up with 7 siblings all right handed so I learned how to bat and play golf right handed and cannot do it left handed at all! I have compensated with my saying and pointing of directions by saying “that way” and pionting instead of left or right, as i know I will get it wrong if I dont think about it….
I flip my left and right when trying to give directions and such. I also, flip information around that I perceive to have and opposite. Not with such things as “hot and cold”. Like trying to remember the difference between a pigeon and a dove, and like terms as waxing and wanning…kind of information flipping. I ran across your article in researching this information flipping I have going on in my head. I call it information dyslexia…nothing to do with reading or writing processing. Does anyone else have anything like this going on that could point me in the right direction?
I do not know any of what these NT, Sf etc etc mean. However, I am relieved to know that I am not alone. I speak right when I mean left and vice versa. Not under stress or preoccupied. This came from no-where and wrecked my job as an xray tech when I would give the films to the radiologist and have to say (example) right ankle pain without truama. The films would be correctly marked left, and left ankle, say, was xrayed.
Now I am having trouble when I look at (example) a car and call it a different color, even as I am looking at it I might, say, call a white car green. I tested that I do not always call the same color as a different color. IOW, blue is not always red, etc.
I am also beginning to notice that I will misread a sentence if there is a sentence underneath it. I will take a word or part of word from the top sentence and mix it with a word from the lower sentence. It creates a different word and meaning. An example is that if you look at my sentences and see ‘misread’ and under it is the word ‘part’, I can easily see the word ‘spread’ by mixing both. So sometimes I read that way and have to take a double look at the sentence.
Also, I am now realizing my trouble w typing at times, is that my left hand @ asdf gets confused w my right hand @ jkl; and cause me to mistype words. Looking at the keyboard doesn’t help.
WHAT IS GOING ON WITH MY BRAIN. PLEASE HELP. I know this sounds wacky (or I do) but this is true and if anyone can lead me to a resource or can explain, I would be so appreciative. Those simple games I’ve taken perhaps on facebook, etc say that I have dominance of both hemispheres of my brain. Thank you so much.
I’m so happy to have found this article (googling if “verbal dyslexia” is a thing). Whether or not the theory is true, it’s comforting to see so many other people who have the same issue as me. I’m a native English speaker. right handed. Whole brained. Every time I’ve taken a personality type test, my type is different and I never have a strong preference for any type. I’m always barely one or another thing. I always verbally mix up left and right and east and west (which I think of as left and right in my head) even though I know the difference and my pointing is always accurate. I have gotten my road trip disclaimer down and people know to look at my hands and ignore what I say. I’ve tried compensating and tried to preemptively say the opposite of what I was going to say and sometimes this works and I’ll say the right word and other times I’ll overcompensate and end up saying the incorrect word anyway. I also only mix up these directional words in English.
Hi! I am a hindi speaking Indian, english is my second language. i tend to confuse the words left and right while speaking in both languages. i often find myself yelling the wrong word and frantically pointing in the opposite direction while giving directions to a driver, this also happens while receiving directions. The last experience left me feeling so foolish i decided to find out of there is a name for this “condition” !! No clue as to what my “type” is, just relieved i am not alone.
I frequently mix up right and left when giving or receiving directions. I am an NT and a native English speaker. When I lived in Brazil and spoke Portuguese as a second language I NEVER mixed up direita and esquerda. I always pointed to the right when I said direita and to the left when I said esquerda. No idea why I can do it in Portuguese but not in English!
SF is an abbreviation for Sensing Feeling type. Any of the 16 types that have this function pair are termed “SFs.”
What is SF?
This is a fascinating relief! I was just searching for why I mix up left and right. I am an english speaking 56 year old female physical therapist. My type is ISTJ however the T and F are so close they are almost neutralizing (and a source of conflict) As a physical therapist I have to face my patients and give verbal instruction about movement to them. I work with a lot of people who have had brain injury on one side of their brain. It has been maddening to me how many times I give people the wrong sided instructions. My mind is working hard to assess my patient, recall how they did in the last treatment and adjust my instructions to them to facilitate recovery. It takes so much energy to say the right words when I have to reference left or right. I have adjusted by using gestures or instructions to move towards objects instead of left or right.
Wow! I thought my sister and I were the only ones!
She is forgiven as she is dyslexic,
but I have a 140 IQ and am seen as the bright one.
I have excellent sense of direction and can find my way around places effotlessly, once i have been somewhere I will never forget either. But I had a masaive argument with my dad recently (he is very dyslexic) he was driving and I was in the back, he aased me which way and couldnt see me point and I just couldnt work it out. He called me stupid. It is very frustrating.
my biggest problem is placing things on a picture ie top left, last on the right etc. Totally blows my mind! The concept of “your left or on my left” is utterly incomprehesible to me.
I’m an American, raised and still reside in New England. I have always mixed up my left or right under pressure, especially when talking. I shake my “right” hand when I know I have to give directions. My boyfriend always corrects me and I feel embarrassed. I am so happy this is an actual “syndrome” and I’m not the only one.
I did it again. LOL!!!
Well, if that doesn’t beat all. I misspelled spellchecker in my above comment. I forgot the space between words and forgot the er.
I had to go to an online spellchecker at http://www.jspell.com/public-spell-checker.html to spell check my spelling. That, plus messing up right and left in my photoshop file means I’m feeling infirmed and a little fragile. This might be a good time for a group hug.
I am an INFJ and have had this “trouble” my whole life. When I work in Photoshop I label layers. If the objects are on the right side of the workspace I inevitably label it as xxx-left instead of xxx-right. And visa versa.
My friends started saying, “Not that left, the other left” to me because they know it will trigger me to correct myself. This is an embarrassing problem in the workplace. It makes you look stupid when, in fact, you certainly are not.
It’s bad enough I can’t live without spellcheck now. That alone is an infirmity, lol. But to be beset with this makes things even more horrible. It’s so terrible all you can do is smile and put your hands in the air when caught in the act. Why get down about it? Just do your best anyhow.
Hi. I am greek.In my language i neither confuse hands or meaninds of right and left. BUT in all my other languages, in english, french, german ,italian etc. i still face difficulties on that one. To distinguish them in english i remember “leftist” and “right” which is the ok. In french i remember rive gauche for example. It helped for a while but in driving in England i would certainly cause an accident.
I am a writer and i write with the right hand although as a kid i fancied writing with the left as a game. I did some tests to see which of the two parts of the brain i use most, well all result as 50% – 50%.
I feel bad about it. I fear others will know my deficiency. I am 40. I can not accept that i can write philosophy when i can not tell right from left. It is very embarassing. Could it have something to do with lack of self confidence? thank you.
I just turned 58 and in the past year I have noticed a problem with left and right.
I became aware of the problem when working with websites. The significance is that I did not know I was making a mistake. I would use the web page code to align text to the left but would use the code to align text to the tight (the codes are text-align:left and text-align:left).
Also have confused left and right when writing directions for someone to come to my house. The last two turns have always been a right then left. Until very recently. Now it’s random.
Just today I noticed twice I typed a D when it should have been a K and vise-versa.
I’ve always found left and right to be kinda troublesome, always having to really focus when giving directions. Picturing the directions comes natural, but attributing the words, not so much. However, only recently I started realizing that I was mixing up left and right.
I’m an introverted NT (INTP), so I grow tired quickly when dealing with people. If I were to guess, I would say it’s because I started working. I get tired from interacting with others, and as a result become less focused in my daily life, ending with me mixing up left and right more often.
“Dextro-dyslexia” I like this idea. It would explain it since there are varying degrees and severity of dyslexia and this could very well be a “milder” form of it.
I’m a fairly strong NT and right handed but interesting discussion. I never thought of a link with type, I tell my oh so frustrated friends that it is dextro-dyslexia.
I have had this problem for a long time. The older I get the more I worried I was getting dementia. So glad to know I am not alone.
As a right-handed, biologically female INTP (mostly right handed, cross-dominant), I can honestly say that I am frequently confused by the left vs right thing, as well as East vs Right. I know which way is which, I do, I just… need a diagram. I have actually always been like that – even when I was learning to read in school. “Read left to right!” (when I’m silently thinking “which one was that again?” – and I did learn how to read from right to left, so HA). For years I had written stuff on my left hand so I could remember which one was which easily. Every time I’m not driving and someone is asking me to read the directions, I have to read ahead and looking at my fingers (in the L shape) to make sure I’m telling them everything correctly. In Drama classes, when the stage directions demanded me to enter left, I was constantly going through the wrong end of the stage.
I’m not dyslexic, but I also frequently mess up the P and the B – even as capitals. I don’t know why, but I do.
So, yeah, I’m not alone.
I’m an ENTP/INTP who has tested split-brained numerous times. I have *NEVER* been able to tell my right from my left. I can fake it by subtly lifting up my hands and sticking my thumb and pointer out in the shape of an L. The one with the backwards L is my Right hand. I have to do this *every time* I give left/right directions, even if I had just correctly told the person to turn right two seconds previously! It also doesn’t help that I’m dyslexic, so when I’m really tired, I’m not even sure which hand is showing the L facing the right way. Usually, I end up giving directions by pointing “this way” and “that way.”
Yes I do know my left from my right!
However I have had this left right mix up problem most all my life, a kind of dyslexia. Most of my life I have managed to get through my life OK, sometimes overcoming embarrassing moments by joking that I am becoming senile …
It did become a problem which actually caused me to lose my job. I was a skilled electrician for many years from an apprentice with the electricity authorities and I kept updated with regulations until even until recent years…I was on a job installing a 3 phase electrical supply meter,
I was tired and stressed at the time at the end of my working day .The location was a building in dereliction with no occupation. I put a wire that should have been on the right in the left position and left to right, this was in fact reserved a polarity which is a very dangerous situation… and is always a definite NO NO!
I could not do my usual procedural tests on completion since test points had been removed in the building being gutted and renovated by builders. I took a photo of the completed Installation and even then didn’t realize the cross over.
On Inspection it was later found to be incorrect and as a consequence I was dismissed from my job… So this for me in the end caused a major problem…. which I could not challenge… I can no longer get employment in my trade because my record shows a cross polarity incident …
[…] Philippe De Sainte Maresville has the same problem and describes that it appears to be the words that get it wrong, not so much the hand movement. According to him we damn well know where left and right is, just that the words seem to appear on a random basis, unfortunately not necessarily the right one. Those who often experience mix ups might need a lot of concentration to get it right and most hiccups happen under stress or when tired. He also links it to psychological typing, that we have certain behavioural traits which work with certain parts of the brain. […]
I am an English speaking American, but stumbled on your article while researching my Left Right issue. I am extremely bright, professional, nerdy but can’t give or get directions based on L/R. This problem exists for me in written form, not just verbal. For example, if I am writing directions to my home, I almost always write one or more of the turns down wrong. I always have to go over the directions, visually mapping it out holding up my hands to see the L on my Left hand and then make corrections.
I also have an issue with East/West. Even in the city in which I live, if I see a sign for East/West, I cannot determine which way to go by the words alone. I compensate by thinking, “I’m in Nashville right now and I’m going toward Knoxville. Okay, West, no wait, that’s East”. As you can see, going down the road at 70 MPH having to make a snap decision can be dangerous.
However, I have an amazing sense of direction naturally and can find my way anywhere.
Another area that this affects me is on the stove burner knobs. I cannot look at the picture to figure out which burner to turn on. Or I intend to turn on the left burner and turn on the right. I’m not a proffessional in psychology, but I believe I’m both SF and IF. Not sure if that is truly related. I’m also right handed, and female. So glad to know others of you out there are like me!
Thank you for sharing this with the world! Ha. I am quite comforted by the fact I am not alone in my all too often ability to point left but say right! 🙂
I am also an INFP, like the poster above…. Would like to add… I have always just found this to be embarrassing and aggravating… Who cares if ya gotta I.Q. of 165 or made a perfect 1500 on SATs… If ya can’t even tell the difference in left and right!
I give myself a lil bit of credit… Most people can’t walk and chew gum… But I can! Lol…
Much thanks & Love!
I appreciate the author Philippe De Sainte Maresville’s analysis, but my problem as outlined in my previous post is I am not an SF but an ST so I don’t know what that does to his line of thinking? Additionally I am not only frequently confused when I speak right and left, but when someone who is a passenger tells me to turn right or left. About half of the time they will say right and I start moving into the left lane for an upcoming left turn.
Again, the fact that I am 55% right handed/45% left handed could be some of the difficulty. When my wife says turn your way or alternatively “my way” I always get it right. If she points or if I point, it is always followed by correct turning.
Hello, I have the same issue as you when giving directions, follow the hands, ignore what I say. This iS when I generally notice it, but thinking back to it, years ago when I took driving lessons I occasionally turned the opposite direction to what was asked.
I’m trying to find out more about it, but your explanation is quite technical, I’m not sure what NT, ST and SF mean, I’ll do more reading. My friends and I laugh it off, but I’d really like to know what it is that happens when I make these mistakes. I’m right handed and British.
I have had this right/left confusion all of my life. Part of the problem is I am nearly ambidextrous, with a 45 Left/55 Right Preference. I can print, write, play ping pong, shoot pool, and play tennis with my left hand, just not quite as well as the right hand. English is my only fluent language and I’m an ESTJ on the Myers-Briggs scale with very strong scores on STJ. Go figure, but the Air Force ROTC didn’t want me as a navigator 45 years ago. Can’t fathom why!
It just seems intrinsically that the side that the heart is on should be the side called right.
Some of the errors this causes are comical, others aren’t. Somewhere the wires are crossed.
Thank you for this article. As a teacher I have been fascinated by this phenomenon. At times I used to hold up my right and left hands in front of me to make sure I was giving right and left directions correctly to my class. Picking up dance moves from an instructor who stood in front of me was difficult, unless their back was to me, and then left and right were easier to understand. As a child I thought it was a defect in me.
As a mom I have raised one right handed son and one left handed son and enjoy seeing the differences in the ways they think and create and solve problems. While both sons have learned to speak French fluently I notice a difference in their ability to give directions in both languages. My right handed son picked up the French language far more quickly than my left handed son and he enjoyed living with a family in France a couple of years ago. My left handed son has more difficulty with the directional words when giving oral directions in either English or French.
I wonder how this syndrome affects ones ability to learn new languages. I believe this syndrome is cross cultural and I enjoyed your article.
In my Article, I emphasis this syndrome for SF. However as I also “lightly” indicated in 4th paragraph, this syndrome may be true also for NTs. Reading posted comments, I noticed several NTs are experiencing it, which is “normal” (even is this syndrome is awkward, especially for NTs)
In case of NTs the explanation is somewhat similar, as both SF and NT share the fact of “having a preference on each hemisphere which provides them with a strong inner reference of where their right and their left sides are, so they don’t have to think about it”.
As a psychologist evaluating for specific learning disabilities, I found that’directionality’ was considered to be one, but not one that was valued/measured in the way that reading or written expression is.
As a dedicated INTP, I have since childhood, pointed in the correct direction and with almost perfect negative correlation said the wrong directional word. I am very good with directions, knowing where I am in space, finding locations, etc., but all my friends knew when we were in the car that they should watch my hands and forget the spoken words.
I’ve always considered it my glitch.
Very interesting article, you verbalized exactly what is going on inside of my head. It does seem to happen more frequently as I age. At least I can pass this on to my wife in an attempt to show that I am not a complete idiot. Thanks.
I often mix up my right and left when speaking or using directions. I have no idea why, but I can conclude that my brain finds verbally distinguishing right from left unimportant in stressful situations (like rapidly changing directions). I am native English, and have no other issues like this, other than I also mix up my “p”s and “b”s, even when they’re capitalized (P/B). I’ve always found this odd. Nice to know I’m not the only one out there!
Also, I’m right handed (I WRITE with my RIGHT) but this doesn’t help at all.
I have frequent problems with differentiations between left/right both verbally and mentally (if I construct it as words). I have no problems with visual indications (hand signals, etc).
I speak four different languages fluently (two Germanic, one Ural-Altaic, and one Indo-Iranian). The language I’ve spoken most often for the last 6 years has been English (although Facebook allows me to use the other three frequently, but only written). I often have problems finding the “right word” in all languages I speak. It could perhaps be related to the left/right problem. By the way, I am equally confused about left/right in all my languages. I have to look into it further, and I think you’ve directed me in the right direction (no pun intended).
I would also like to add that if I’m driving and my passenger is telling me to take a left turn, I often turn right (and vice versa). I’ve been thinking about using the nautical terms “port” and “starboard” (left/right respectively) to see if I can induce the same confusion as with the regular “left”/”right”. As I have never used these words (and didn’t know the difference until recently), I’m hoping that it could yield some interesting results.
As for my personality type, I’m an INTJ, and right-hand dominant in most cases (except when I use a baseball bat or hockey stick, where both of them are left-oriented).
And thanks for posting this!
wow I thought I was the only one! I have a Master’s degree in biology but i frequently say right when i mean left and vice-versa. My daughter is the one who pointed it out many times. how embarrassing. But there you go! There is a whole lot of a syndrome.
How would I fit into the research if I’m and ENFP and ambidextrous. Recently a problem with a neck injury caused me to write “right” handed vs. left for 55 years. In talking with my doctor I told him I was having a problem with word memory when I was writing. Left brain – Right brain – left hand – right hand.
My writing style is almost the same using my right ( wrong ) hand. 🙂
I regularly infuriate my ISTJ husband by saying left when I mean right and vice versa, when giving directions. It’s getting worse as i get older.
Thanks for your feedback Clare.
When you say you mix up your left and right hand, does it mean that what you say is correct but what your hands shows is wrong or the reverse ?
Very interesting. I also know that SF shows up out of proportion in the low literacy population. Here’s my research on that http://www.applestar.org/capella/MBTI%20in%20Education.doc
Very interesting article. I am a very clear NF (ENFP) and frequently mix up my left and right hands when speaking. I am interested in hearing if there are many other NF’s like me.
[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bonnie Bright, Asheville Jung Ctr. Asheville Jung Ctr said: A discussion of "handedness" and the neurobiology of typology for a layperson http://bit.ly/a5wRcl […]