At many moments in life, we may have heard that one side of the brain is stronger than the other. We may have also thought that right-handed people use their left side of their brain more and that left-handed people use their right side of their brain more. Let’s scope out the whole “left brain versus right brain” theory to see whether it’s real or a myth.
What is the theory? 1960s Nobel-prize winning psychobiologist Roger W. Sperry birthed the theory that people are either right-brained or left-brained. This means that, supposedly, one side of our brain is more dominant than the other side, and the more dominant side determines our strengths, weaknesses, and perhaps even personality traits. But just how effective is this belief? What does each side of the brain look like?
Left Brain Characteristics. The left side of the brain, according to Dr. Sperry, is associated with:
- Linear thinking
- Thinking with words
- Math and sciences
- Concrete thinking
The left side of the brain is believed to be in charge of analyzing, writing, reading, and comprehension. It is objective, technical, and more literal than the right side of the brain. People who are thought to be dominantly left-brained are more in touch with the tangible world, their bodies, and are very practical, seeking realistic solutions to any problem. They are detail-oriented, grounded, and would rather employ realistic approaches to life rather than using imagination or intuition.
Right Brain Characteristics.According to Dr. Sperry, the right side of the brain is associated with:
- The arts
- Nonverbal cues
- Holistic thinking
- Abstract thinking
Right-brained dominance supposedly means that these folks are more on the creative, expressive side. They read between the lines and understand implied meanings very well. They are the artists, the poets, and the free thinkers. They enjoy contemplating different art media and adopt an intuitive approach to life, and perhaps use a similar approach to solve problems. They enjoy practices and ideas that are unorthodox and tend to be attracted to things that are unusual.
Collaboration, Debunking the Theory. While many people may believe that our personalities, learning styles, strengths and weaknesses, and hobbies, and interests depend on whether they are more “right-brained” or “left-brained,” this theory has been discounted multiple times over the years. There have been studies that performed over a thousand brain imaging scans. Interestingly, the collected brain scans revealed no trace of whether a person is left-brained or right-brained.
Although it is true that both sides of the brain have distinctively different functions, the nerve fibers connecting the two sides serve as a collaborative feature allowing both sides to work together to perform tasks such as interpreting an art piece or performing a math equation while doing rough estimates and comparisons. The bottom line is that we do not use only one side of our brain at a time; both sides work together to complement each other and perform a given task effectively!
Staying Mentally Sharp. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, keeping our brains active will keep it healthy and help create new brain cells! So here are a few tips to help maintain the greatness of our minds:
- Read and/or write daily for an allotted time.
- Learn, learn, learn! Learn a new hobby, study a topic or subject you don’t know much about, take a class or attend a lecture.
- Play games such as chess, memory games, board games, or video games.
- Aerobic exercises, or any physical exercise in general—blood flow increases brain power.
- Take up a hobby or creative activity that requires you to focus, such as painting, coloring (adult coloring books), or any games with words or numbers.
- Talk! Be intentional about engaging in intellectual conversations with others or even yourself (don’t be ashamed, we always follow our own social script!). Talking about stimulating ideas such as politics, sociological topics, and forward-thinking conversations will keep our brains beefed up.
So, there is no such thing as being left- or right-brained. Just know that both sides equally collaborate to make us who we are.