by Julian Ryder, Founder + Chief Creative Officer
The notion of hemispheric dominance; being a left-brain or right-brain thinker, is an illusion built on a platform of misguided assumptions and perpetuated through popular culture.
The left-brain right-brain theory posits that you and I have one side of our brain that is more dominant than the other. The theory is based on roles that science has assigned to each hemisphere of our brain; left-brain being analytical, right-brain being creative. Identifying yourself as being right-brained sets a preference and a mindset for thinking from right-brain attributes and the same is true for left-brain thinkers.
The left-brain right-brain theory was first noted in 1861 when French physician Pierre Paul Broca saw indications of brain function lateralization when he observed that injuries to one side of the brain or the other caused a person to lose specific abilities. More recently, Roger Sperry, 1981 Nobel Prize winner for Physiology and Medicine was widely publicized after determining split-brain patients have independent processing styles for each hemisphere of the brain. Split brain patients have gone through a surgical procedure that separates the two halves of the brain, usually to eliminate severe bouts of epilepsy.
It was the publicity from Sperry’s research that elevated left-brain right-brain theory into popular culture and our everyday language. Today you can find books, magazines, online quizzes and myriad other resources that tell you how to tap into and enhance one side of your brain or the other.
Neuroscientists at the University of Utah in 2013 finished a two-year study examining brain scans of more than 1,000 participants looking at activity in 7,000 brain regions. They performed comparisons and correlations of the activity between the regions and concluded both left and right hemispheres were equal in their neural networks and connectivity. Dr. Jeff Anderson, director of the fMRI Neurosurgical Mapping Service at the University said, "There is a misconception that everything to do with being analytical is confined to one side of the brain, and everything to do with being creative is confined to the opposite side. In fact, it is the connections among all brain regions that enable humans to engage in both creativity and analytical thinking." He went on to say, "It is not the case that the left hemisphere is associated with logic or reasoning more than the right. Also, creativity is no more processed in the right than the left."
It doesn’t mean that our left hemisphere and right hemisphere are equal, they’re not. The fact is some people are genetically predisposed toward creativity and others toward being analytical. Genetics is only half of what is required to take advantage of a trait. Environment is the other factor that influences our makeup. Creative ability, for example, first needs to be recognized then nurtured and then practiced. Without environmental factors brought into play genetic traits like creativity tend to live in the background.
Do you consider yourself to be an analytical, logical person and not creatively gifted? What might be possible if you were to shift your mindset to include the untapped creative talent that lives within you? Next time you're working on a project give yourself permission to take that part of your brain for a test drive.