This is a short article explaining how the left and right brain hemispheres work and the most common misconceptions about this.
The so-called left-brain person is thought to be linear, logical, analytical, and unemotional; and the right-brained person is thought to be spatial, creative, mystical, intuitive, and emotional. While such adjectives may describe people to various degrees during various activities and in different work or social situations, this certainly is no basis for knowing or understanding an individual. However, personality typologies have always been popular, even though they are as spurious as astrological signs. (See the Bobgan’s book Four Temperaments, Astrology & Personality Testing, pp. 131-172, for an excellent analysis of the worthlessness of personality typing and its connection with astrology and the occult.)
Brain research has shown some particular areas of strengths of one hemisphere over the other, but George Deutsh of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston says that “differences within a hemisphere account for more than differences between them” (quoted by Kevin McKean, “Of Two Minds: Selling the Right Brain,” Discover, 1985, p. 38). Neurologist John Mazziotta at the UCLA school of medicine says:
“Even on the most trivial tasks our studies showed that everything in the brain was in flux — both sides, the front and back, the top and bottom. It was tremendously complicated. To think that you could reduce this to a simple left-right dichotomy would be misleading and oversimplified” (Mazziotta, quoted by Kevin McKean, see above).
Jerre Levy, in his book Right Brain, Left Brain: Fact and Fiction, declares that her reason for writing her article was to stop the misconceptions and show the truth about how our brain hemispheres operate.
Levy first explores the myth of the left brain and right brain theory.
She states that generally people see the left hemisphere of the brain controlling logic and language and the right, creativity and intuition. In addition people differ in their styles of thought, depending on which half of the brain is dominant. She believes that most of what these notions state is farce.
Next the article explores the history of this fascination of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Apparently the study of this aspect of the brain traces back to time of Hippocrates. Levy weaves in and out of the various theories and prominent people known for contributing to the confusion. It wasn’t until 1962 when Roger W. Sperry began experimenting on certain aspects of the brain that contribute to the truth of the left and right brain theory.
Sperry studied people who had undergone surgical division of the corpus callosum, the bridge between the two hemispheres. His studies showed that, “an object placed in the right hand (left hemisphere) could be named readily, but one placed in the left hand (nonverbal right hemisphere) could be neither named nor described.
Next to branch off of Sperry’s studies was psychologist Doreen Kimura.
Kimura developed behavioral methods which involved presenting visual stimuli rapidly to either the left or right visual fields. Another important method developed was “dichotic listening” which centered around the use of sound to study the hemispheres. Through these tests and the continual study the theory that the left brain controlled ended. Instead a new theory was born known as the two-brain theory. This said that at different times one of the two hemispheres would be operating. An example of this is that the right hemisphere is in control when an artist paints but the left hemisphere was in control when a novelist wrote a book.
This theory failed because of one physical studies showed that people with hemispheres surgically disconnected could operate in everyday life. Also, research demonstrated that each hemisphere had its own functional expertise, and that the two halves were complementary. Next, the article states its worth. The author shows the up to date agreed upon theory of the two hemispheres in five simple points.
- The two hemispheres are so similar that when they are disconnected by split-brain surgery, each can function remarkably well, although quite imperfectly
- Although they are remarkably similar they are also different. The differences are seen in contrasting contributions. Each hemisphere contributes something to every action a person takes.
- Logic is not confined to the left hemisphere. Although dominant in the left logic is present in the right hemisphere.
- There is no evidence that either creativity or intuition is an exclusive property of the right hemisphere. Same theory as #3.
- Since the two hemispheres do not function independently, and since each hemisphere contributes its special capacities to all cognitive activities, it is quite impossible to educate one hemisphere at a time in a normal brain.
Levy comes to the conclusion that people are not purely left or right brained. There is a continuum in which the hemispheres work together in harmony. Often the left or right hemisphere is more active in some people but it is never the sole operator. She concludes,
We have a single brain that generates a single mental self.
Compared to what we did in class related to the left and right hemispheres of the brain, both what we learned and the article taught were extremely similar. Our exercise showed that we are not left or right brained but merely somewhere on the scale between left and right brain. Some of us were extreme left, few extreme right and most in the middle leaning left a bit (this is where I fell).
I could not agree more with what we did in class and the article I read.
The author wrote a fabulous complete article. In my summary which probably was a little lengthy, I feel I am not doing the author just. She had so much wonderful background that there was no way to include it all. She introduced the problem at hand and explored every aspect of the subject showing other’s views and previously excepted theories. After all was said she introduced her (generally accepted) theory in a simple well thought out five point system that suited the novice as well as the expert.