In Our Head Facts- Brain Dominance

In an age where a 140 character message can spread around the world like the wildest of wildfires or a pizza-slice can transform into a bikini model with the artistic flare of a photo-shop engineer, we should be adept at closing our ears to hearsay and tattle and all sorts of false truths. Every now and then however the intuitive appeal of certain ideas tend to seep through even the most stringent of BS filters, making their way into a common garden of popular misconceptions.

One such idea is the weed of a notion that one side of our brain is more functionally dominant than the other resulting in individual differences in traits such as creativity, analytic ability or orderliness.

With Facebook statuses sharing results from BuzzFeed brain-dominance tests, professional write-ups detailing the personality traits of those who use one hemisphere of their brain more so than the other, even guidance counsellors basing career recommendations on tests of brain-sidedness, this myth just wont die.

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To slice the ever-growing misconception at its stem, it is simply not true that one side of the brain does reason and analytical thinking and the other emotion and creativity. Simply not true. It is not true that the left-hemisphere is 100% responsible for language, or that the right-hemisphere is entirely in charge of creative thought.

Not. True.

What is true is that both sides of the brain are enormously important for each of these pursuits. Both the right and left hemispheres are intimately connected through a cerebral “bridge” known as the corpus callosum.

Corpus callosum emphasised (MRI brain side-view)

Corpus callosum

All that said, there are a few seeds of truth to the myth.

Admittedly, the brain is indeed profoundly divided. One of the main functions of the corpus callosum is in fact, to inhibit or excite one hemisphere over the other under certain circumstances.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the brain is also asymmetrical suggesting that different functional structures on both hemispheres evolved to serve different purposes.

So there is indeed a certain amount of important separation going on between both hemispheres. It has been discovered, for instance, that the left hemisphere is localized for language analysis, and the right for music.

This so called brain lateralization is not as clear-cut as the left-right brain myth would have you believe however. For example, although the left side has proven to be localized for language comprehension and use, the right hemisphere is still important for processing some aspects of language, such as intonation and emphasis.

whole connected brain

To conclude this brief attempt at pruning the myth of the two-brained brain, although a separation does exist between the functional feats of both sides, the brain, as a whole, is a single unit. The corpus callosum is there for good reason; the right and left sides of the brain, just like the back and front of the brain, must work  together intimately in order to generate our thoughts and our ideas, to grant us our idiosyncrasies and our specific abilities, to bring about a coherent sense of self and to gift us with the uniqueness of our being.

 

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Filed under 2014, In Our Head Facts, Individual differences

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