Author Archives: Lindsey Williamson

Stupid Scissors


Anybody who read that and understood is like me, a small part of the population who is left handed (10%). We have difficulties daily living in a right hand world.  Did you know 85% of lefties consider themselves more awkward or clumsy than average? Compared to righties, us lefties score a tenth of a standard deviation lower on measures of cognitive skills. We also tend to have more learning disabilities such as dyslexia and score lower on standardized tests. Though scientists have yet to find an answer to what causes the “south paws” our brains explain a lot of our differences, what is inherited versus what is learned.

The right hemisphere is the non-dominant area for speech and language yet those who are right brain dominant tend to be left handed. Ever hear the saying “if the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, then only left handed people are in their right minds?” Yeah it sounds cute but what it really means for us lefties is we usually have impairments in perception, attention and language deficits compared to that of the right handers. Since right handers use more of their left side of the brain their language abilities are strong and make languages easier. The language system is complex. Not only does it involve speaking but also reading, writing and how we acquire new information.

Brain lateralization means each hemisphere has specialized functions like speech and language. In the standard right hander’s brains, the left hemisphere tends to be larger and more developed. Broca’s area and Wernicke’s are can be up to three times larger. The cortex is also found to be larger (which controls movement). The left side all together is bigger and the links more connected tend to lead to a quicker response time than that though the right hemisphere.  As a leftie we are wired to be better at recognizing things, people, places, and a better understanding of spatial relations. With that we have a number of abilities and disabilities. Left brained people tend to be logical, rational and organized while right brain people are creative, imaginative and artsy like in fields such as architects or math you see a rise in left handedness (right hemisphere cognitive skills). We also see a higher number of learning disabilities.



Is there a single gene directed for this dominance? This is a question that has baffled scientist and as a leftie I can’t wait for more research to be done. No one in my family is left handed so I am curious how, why it happens. Am I really going to die younger? Lefties are prone to accidents, psychiatric disorders and neurological disorders! We make up a large statistic for a small group in a large population.  We are weird, artistic, irregular, emotional and clumsy but we do have a special day for a reason (August 13th)!

For fun quiz!


Geschwind, N., & Behan, P. 1982. “Left-Handedness: Association with Immune Disease, Migraine, and Developmental Learning disorder.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 79(16).

Lindell, A. K. 2011. “Lateral Thinkers Are Not so Laterally Minded: Hemispheric Asymmetry, Interaction, and Creativity.” Laterality, 16(4).











The Dyslexic Child



Starting off our first year of big boy school my son was extremely excited. Finally he would ride the bus and he would finally learn how to read. Quickly that excitement dissipated into stress because no matter how hard we tried he just couldn’t catch on. Sight words are evil in my house. For those who don’t know what sight words are, it’s the new way they teach kids to read. No longer are we using phonetics and how to sound out a word, no now we teach to memorize. Every week we got a new packet of sight words and every night the struggle continued. I saw my once happy excited little 6 year old shut down and even cry. We would trace the one word; repeat it and so on down the sheet. By the time we got to the second word he had forgotten the word he had worked on before. Of course I had no idea what was going on and I will admit at times I did get angry with him but then I saw how hard he tried and just couldn’t retain the information. At that point I knew something was wrong, that gut feeling, a mother’s intuition.

After much back and forth I got the school psychologist to test him. His results were just heartbreaking. They administered the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-V).Where is was above average in his verbal comprehension, visual spatial, fluid reasoning and processing speed, he well below average, “very low” in working memory. The working memory index measures a child’s ability to register, maintain and manipulate visual and auditory information. Low scores point to visual or auditory problems, difficulty in the working memory processing or general low cognitive functioning.  Another test given to him again he was above average in the same areas and again low in auditory short-term and working memory as well as his visual working memory. His test on the CTOPP-2 showed his phonological memory was well below average as well.  I sat hearing this in a room with his teachers, counselor, principal and I was just filled with anger. I told them all year something wasn’t right and he didn’t need to just “try harder” he’s a smart perceptive kid.

There are two types of working memory, visual and auditory. Think of it like a tv show. Visual is of course what you see and auditory is what you hear.  Kind of like a playback option for later. Kids with weak or low working memory tend to have a difficult time remember all they read or what they teacher has said and have less to work with. They tend to have a harder time remembering instructions. I remember how frustrated I would get when he couldn’t remember multiple step directions. I know have to do in small steps. We did have an incident when he would get off the bus. In order for him to get across the street to his driveway in our neighborhood required close to ten steps. Poor thing just couldn’t remember all of them even though he did it often. What should have been an easy process for a child has turn traumatic where other bigger kids would yell, the bus driver would yell and in turn he would cry. This again is another example of his low working memory. We continue to work on this but he still forgets, just like his sight words.

Role of working memory in Dyslexia also causes issues between the association of verbal working memory and trying to read.  Your working memory is responsible for many skills we use to learn to read. Our auditory memory helps us hold on to the letter sounds and helps us learn to sound out new words. Our visual memory helps us remember what those words look like. Because of his low working memory he has a hard time remember those sight words. When we will read a book the first page will start off he will… and so on and so on. After the first page he will remember the he will part and glance at the picture to see what it illustrates. However with his weak working memory he will forget by the middle of the book and just start guessing. Sometimes you hear that dyslexic children have a hard time with the middle of the story. They will know the beginning and or the end. Just like their speech they tend to leave the middle part of words or words out of sentences. They just don’t have the working memory to process it all together correctly. I believe we are seeing a rise in this mainly because they don’t teach like they used to. I remember having to learn to sound out the words not memorize them. Looking back I think if they did that with me I would probably have the same struggles as my son. If I could get where I am and accomplished what I have then I know he will be ok. He has me to help him and together we will get through our struggles. I tell him every night he’s not dumb he’s dyslexic and some of the smartest, most successful people are too. Albert Einstein to Walt Disney. It’s not a disability it’s a gift be proud and to own it.

Magic and Perception



“Reality seems so simple. We just open our eyes and there it is. But that doesn’t mean it is simple” Famed magician Teller say of the group Penn and Teller. Magic for instance is more than mere entertainment not just smoke and mirrors. The tricks they use mess with our everyday view and ideas of perception. Magic works by manipulating our awareness since our brains aren’t wired to see everything with so much going on.  Many are successful at diverting our attention and tap into our shortcomings in vision and awareness. How aware are we? As our textbook states “perception is the gateway to all of the other cognitions” therefor perception is key and allows us to make sense of reality. Could we use the principles of magic to study disorders involving attention, social deficits, or even memory? By using techniques such as misdirection, illusion or forcing magicians can help others map new areas of brain function.

Magicians could help provide a better understanding of some neurological diseases even their causes. Those with Autism, lacking social cues will tend to look exactly where the magician doesn’t want them to look. Also autistic patients for example have a hard time gazing directly at others but with the help of magic tricks such as misdirection, we could study the visual attention and how it effects their brains in order to research new methods of treatment.  Inattentional Blindness is a trick many magicians use to trick one’s cogitative mind. The magician will focus the groups attention on let’s say a ball and you have to keep your eye on the ball bouncing.  At that point something else could happen and a normal person wouldn’t see it. They would be focused on the ball. However someone with autism would see the other cue.

Another popular trick of magicians is called memory illusions. With this we could use this type of illusions to study specific memory loss in patients with dementia or other forms of cognitive decline.  We could use such methods to reproduce the neurons mapping in memory and false-memory areas. Other neurological disorders, like that of motor impairment, could also potentially benefit from magic’s inclusion in rehabilitation therapy. Those patients suffering from motor impairment issues could benefit from the repetitive nature of these types of tricks and could also provide possible alternatives for relearning muscle movement.

The tricks used by magicians are informed by brain research and have the potential to further illuminate the biology of human cognition and perception. By understanding how magicians “hack” the brain, scientists could have a new opportunity to study brain function.




Goldstein, E. (2011) Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience, Third Edition. Belmont, CA. Cengage Learning

JAMES, SUSAN DONALDSON: Autism Study Could Find Answers in Magic-

“Science of magic – understanding human cognition and perception”-

Attention and awareness in stage magic: turning tricks into research-