Left and Right Confusion

12th February 2021

Happy Chinese New Year, let’s hope the year of the Ox is going to be a good one for all.

Last week I wrote about Sequencing difficulties, recognising and applying repeated patterns in the correct order.


This also was relevant to the ability to follow instructions. This week I have been looking at an issue which can trouble dyslexics and non dyslexics, confusing your right from your left. This can effect a person’s reading and writing ability, and maths and motor skills (such as tying your shoe laces etc).

In Psychology Today in March 2019 there was an article ‘Why Do I Confuse Left and Right?’


To summarise Ocklenburg states that this type of confusion is quite frequent for lots of people particularly under time pressure or stress. He refers to a study in 1970s where 9% of men and 17% of women confirmed they had this difficulty. A later Australian study in 1990 found one third of people sometimes experienced confusion. Further studies referred to, suggest the area of the brain involved in the left and right process is the ‘Angular gyrus’ !

The Angular Gyrus(AG)

This could be your new word for the day, your new found knowledge could surprise everyone during your next online quiz night!


Read up on the structural and multiple functions of the angular gyrus! Remember there is a left and right hemisphere in the brain.

“Involvement of the AG in (language)semantic processing, word reading and comprehension, number processing, default mode network, memory retrieval, attention and spatial cognition, reasoning, and social cognition.”

Spatial cognition process – includes the ability to determine left from right.

Left AG is where spatial information is associated with the ‘words’ left and right and their meanings.

Right AG is concerned with ‘perceptual’ learning (occurs through sensory interaction with the environment and through experience and practice.)

The AG is considered to be a ‘cross-modal’ hub, integrating, connecting and influencing our actions. Language – attaching words left and right, Memory – recalling which is which, Spatial processing of environment – is that building on your left or right?

The Gerstmann (1940) syndrome (among other names) describes people with lesions near the AG having difficulties with dyscalculia (numbers), dysgraphia (writing) and left/right confusion. This may have been acquired through conditions such as a stroke or MS etc.

Right and left disorientation can also occur, in some lesser degree, in healthy individuals.

Distinguishing left from right: A large-scale investigation of left–right confusion in healthy individuals

Ineke JM van der HamH Chris DijkermanHaike E van Stralen First Published October 30, 2020 


“The results indicate that 14.6% of the general population self reported insufficient left right identification and that 42.9% use a hand-related strategy.” Based on questionnaires.

When a person is faced with an object in front of them, do they mentally manipulate the image or object so its facing the same way as them or imagine their own body moving?

When another person stands in front of you, facing you, or beside you and you are asked to identify their right hand it can make it more difficult if you normally use your own body to work it out.

The above study went onto cover the participants hands to see if they were using off line or online body representations. Offline – your knowledge of what your body is usually like. Online – Current perception of body as it is now, updates all the time.

Do we have an unconscious awareness of our body or do we actually use our hands physically to solve the problem of left and right?

“Findings suggest that a certain off- line spatial configuration of the hands is used.”

I have talked about the left-right disorientation for the population generally and as a result of an illness, accident or condition.

In some articles and information I have read on line about dyslexia it can include left and right confusion as a symptom of dyslexia.

The British Dyslexia Association say:

“Dyslexia is a learning difference which primarily affects reading and writing skills. However, it does not only affect these skills. Dyslexia is actually about information processing. Signs of dyslexia (Primary school age): includes, among others – Confused by the difference between left and right, up and down, east and west”

Obviously all dyslexics are different and therefore each range of symptoms will not be the same. The skill of knowing your left from your right is developmental, a child would normally on average know this by the age of 7 or 8.

It is important to note that dyslexia has been found to be predominately a phonological issue. Please do not automatically think your child is dyslexic if they do not know their left from their right, there would need to be a series of indicators.

The Angular Gyrus in Developmental dyslexia

Click to access angular_gyrus_PS_paper.pdf

“The findings support the view that neurobiology anomalies in developmental dyslexia are largely confined to the phonological processing domain. The right hemisphere posterior regions serve a compensatory role.”

The study looked at Neuroimaging results implicating the region of the AG raising the issue of a possible parallel between the anatomy of developmental and acquired dyslexia. To study dyslexic readers and see if there is a ‘global deficit’ in the AG (so would effect other functions not connected with phonological) or are more specific to a ‘phonological deficit’. Could it effect spatial processing as well as language related functions?

The conclusion: “When the demand on phonological assembly was low, dyslexic readers showed robust functional connectivity” in the AG and related areas. “These findings imply that the AG is not globally dysfunctional in dyslexic readers.”

They found a greater activation in dyslexic readers than non dyslexic readers in the right hemisphere AG. Right AG is concerned with ‘perceptual’ learning (occurs through sensory interaction with the environment and through experience and practice.)

There seems to be still uncertainty as to whether left and right confusion is a symptom of dyslexia or a separate issue which may be co existing?

What I would like to find out is whether the individuals that report a problem in this area are confused with the the language, concept or actually their self awareness of body laterality? Or a bit of both? Is it a problem with language, having to quickly supply a word for a direction or a problem with spatial awareness?

Do they have no problem at all with spatial awareness but its the language of such that causing a problem?

Common Strategies used

  • Using your thumb and index finger to make an L shape. (This obviously only works if you can recognise the correct direction for a capital L)
  • Think about which hand you write with (unless you are ambidextrous – use both hands)
  • Always wear a watch, bracelet, ring on your right hand for quick identification.
  • Sing the Hokey Cokey song with young developing children https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/sites/kids/files/attachment/songs-the-hokey-cokey-lyrics-final-2013-03-25.pdf
  • Also try playing the ‘Simon Says’ game. Introducing and using the directional terms as much as possible as a young child is developing.

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Do you or someone you know have difficulty with following directions either due to memory, sequencing difficulties, auditory processing deficit, attention issues, left and right disorientation?

Look forward to your comments to continue with the discussion.

Take care

2 thoughts on “Left and Right Confusion

  1. A little background: My daughter, now 21, was diagnosed as dyslexic in the first grade. I homeschooled her most of the time, as the public school “solution” was doing more harm than good, and we did have her attend a Montessori school a couple of years. She is now enrolled in college online.
    Katie enjoyed dance, so she attended classes for many years. Knowing right and left was sometimes an issue, and we did try putting a bracelet on the side she needed to remember to turn toward until it became muscle memory. Otherwise she uses the finger L method. The biggest issue I can see at this stage. which would fall under sequencing and right/left, is driving. Each time she gets in a car to drive, she must first go through the motions to remember how to properly operate it, then she can concentrate on directions to where she must go. If it is a new place, it cannot be explained all at once, but one step at a time. I can’t say anything there, though because I am the same way; the sensory input of traffic takes concentration which does not allow for the brain to retain directional steps, if that makes sense. (I was never diagnosed, attending school in the 70s, but have some dyslexic tendencies.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well done to your daughter and you on all her achievements. Interesting about using the bracelet strategy until it became ‘muscle memory’. During my research it did mention that the left Angular Gyrus was where spatial information was processed together with words. Right AG could be compensatory using perceptual learning – learning through experience and practice. The right hemisphere coming to the rescue? Good luck with her driving and rest of studies. Thanks for comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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