Left Brain vs Right Brain… for half-brained people


Many of the commonly accepted ideas about right- brain and left-brain differences are nothing more than pop psychology and they most certainly do not represent well-documented science.

The best-supported distinctions about right and left hemisphere specialisation are about 95% of right-handed people have language in the left hemisphere and that the right hemisphere contributes more to emotional expression and spatial processing (such as reading maps). That’s about it! Most of the other ideas i.e. that the right brain is “artistic” while the left brain is “analytical” are not supported by precise, replicated experiments.

In fact, the whole thing dates to the 1860’s when two blokes by the names of Broca and Wernicke made some findings about the role of the left hemisphere in language. Then in the 1960’s Roger Sperry and his colleagues bisected the corpus callosum and other cerebral commissures (white matter connection between the hemispheres) of patients to control intractable epilepsy. They then found the separated hemispheres of their patients to have different specialised abilities, the left was mainly related to language comprehension and production, the right mainly related to spatial perception.
And that was all it took. The nutters jumped into action and soon long lists of supposed left-brain and right-brain functions were generated. The left-brain was associated with Western logic and the right brain with Eastern mysticism. Western education was supposed to neglect the right hemisphere and whole-brain learning became the goal. Children were classified as left brained or right brained based on simple tests that had no validity and no reliability.
This, in turn, lead to views that the right hemisphere was inactive and had to be ‘activated’ so whole industries sprung up with various wacky ways of turning on half your brain.

If it is starting to sound silly to you that’s because it is silly!

We do know that there is hemispheric specialisation. Brain scanning techniques like MRI are capable of pinpointing tiny areas of activity in the brain and many psychological functions are being found to involve one hemisphere more than the other. For example, trained musicians are said to use the left hemisphere a bit more for judgment of relative pitch. Object recognition is thought to be better on the right, guided visual search on the left, and so on. Eventually there will be a catalogue of thousands of skills that are better on the left or the right, or the front or the back, or in one lobe or another.
But this is a far cry from “right brain-left brain thinking.” Why not “front-back” thinking? Let’s face it, some tasks will be performed well in the frontal lobes, others in the occipital lobe. Why not “mid-brain thinking” for the stuff the parietal lobe does well?

The reality is that the brain is full of specialised areas that are activated by particular tasks. In normal thinking, areas from various locations in the brain are activated at the same time, and they work together. In short, you are neither left-brained nor right-brained because the distinction does not exist.

Yes, we have two hemispheres that can operate independently and can have different abilities, but they are massively interconnected and they work together as long as you never have surgery to cut your corpus callosum.

You are whole-brained and everything works together!