The human brain is comprised of two hemispheres separated by a bundle of nerves – the left brain and the right brain. The left and right sides of the brain are connected by a number of neurological fibers. In a healthy brain, the two sides of the human brain communicate with one another.
The left-brain right-brain myth derives from the common perception that our dominant personality traits are connected with the more dominant side of the brain. For example, the myth proposes right-brained people are more creative, while left-brained people are more logical.
But can one side be dominant and does this affect personality?
Left-Brain Right-Brain Theory
The brain is a hardworking and complex organ. It’s made up of billions of neurons or brain cells that manage every function of our body. An energy-intensive organ that accounts for just 2% of a person’s weight, the brain consumes a vast 20 percent of the body’s energy. The left brain controls movement for the right side of the body, while the right brain directs the left side.
Different neural regions are responsible for different functions, such as short-term and long-term memory storage, information processing, sensory-data collection, logical reasoning, language, and more.
One popular theory about the brain implies people who are left-brain dominant are more:
- focused on the task at hand
- likely to think in words (rather than visualize)
The theory also implies right-brain dominant people are more:
- able to see the big picture
- likely to visualize more (rather than think in words)
What’s Really Happening in the Brain?
It has been scientifically proven that specific areas of the brain control particular bodily functions, such as movement and sight. However, there is no scientific evidence that one side is more dominant to the point of influencing personality. So where did the right-brain left-brain myth start?
A theory developed in the 1800s by neurologists Broca and Wernicke determined patients who showed brain damage in the left temporal lobes displayed difficulty with communication. Their research determined the left brain controlled language skills. In the 1960s, Roger Sperry’s Nobel Prize-winning research showed that the hemispheres of the brain specialize in their own tasks.
Through his studies on patients with epilepsy, Sperry theorized the right side of the brain was responsible for the emotional context to language. He also theorized the right side of the brain also managed tasks which require perception, while the left side of the brain controls verbal tasks and analytical thinking. The implications of Sperry’s research and similar neurological studies have been misunderstood over time, connecting individual personality traits with brain lateralization.
Debunking the Left-Brain Right-Brain Myth
According to Harvard Health, if you performed an MRI, a CT scan, or an autopsy on the brain of a mathematician and compared it to the mind of an artist, you probably wouldn’t see a difference. Furthermore, a 2013 University of Utah study on brain lateralization, examining the brains of more than 1,000 people, found no substantial data to indicate the human brain has a dominant side.
The study reinforced that each side of the brain controls specific functions within the body, such as attention being localized on the right and language associated with the left. However, there was no indication of variation from person to person. All participants of the study, whether they were musicians or engineers, used their complete brain equally, deflating the left-brain right-brain myth.
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