Are you a left brain? Right-brain? It is zont. Forget it now.


If you have a few minutes to stand in line, you can try different tests on the Internet to help you “understand the huge dilemma”: are you left or right brain? Or, at least, “Which side of your brain is more dominant? “ (in 30 seconds). Buzzfeed, more elaborate, offers a Triangle test to reveal the dominant side.

This stuff is fun (maybe). But should we take it seriously? No.

Many of us have heard one version or another of the pop psych myth that the brain functions as two separate departments, logic (on the left) and creativity (on the right). The myth carries conversations and sells workshops, books and TV shows. In reality, the two hemispheres of the brain work together for most jobs, the degree of separation differs between individuals, and there is no “general pattern of dominance”. (Educational Neuroscience Center).

How did the notion of left or right brain start? Nineteenth-century neuroscientists such as Paul Broca (1824–1880) and Carl Wernicke (1848-1905) identified regions on either side of the brain associated with specific tasks. Later and more dramatically, a neuroscientist Roger sperry (1913–1994) studied patients whose brains had been split in two, to prevent seizures from one side of the brain from destroying it entirely. These patients were functioning normally except for some disabilities that could be identified through sophisticated testing.

But later the left versus right theory took a life apart:

The idea spread in science, from the New York Times Magazine (1973), Harvard Business Review (1976), Psychology Today (1977) until Sperry was awarded this Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. in 1981. As this still remains a theory, many scientists were interested in doing research to prove this claim, while there was also a lot of research and experiments that were carried out to serve as a negative counterpart. These then paved the way for much discussion of left brain theory versus right brain theory until the present day.

Sam kramer, “Left Brain Vs. Right Brain: Knowing The Myths” at Consumer Health Digest (July 24, 2019)

But more than buzz was at work. The notion of left brain vs right brain has been swept up in educational controversies, as a neuroscientist Lisa Learman Explain:

In the 1970s, educational circles believed that traditional teaching practices reflected a tragic lack of effort to develop the right brain in children. The literary field advocated “to write with the right brain to release expressive powers”. Many artists and musicians have turned to cerebral laterality for curricular and theoretical orientations. To many, the idea that there was an untapped well of creativity in the straight, submissive halves of our brains was appealing.4 In 1979, American artist, teacher, and author Betty Edwards published her book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, in Elle claimed that her success in drawing was due to her ability to switch into the “right mode” of her brain and tap into her creativity and emotional intelligence. Indeed, even today, the polarities of the brain are widely invoked in art, business, education, literary theory and other facets of culture …

In addition, categorizing oneself as right or left brain can satisfy a human need. Similar to astrological signs, labeling ourselves with the dominant cerebral hemisphere gives us the security of a defined personality type capable of explaining past actions and predicting the future.

Lisa Learman, “Left brain vs right brain: why the myth of brain laterality persists” at Biomedical odyssey (May 22, 2019)

In short, the distinction serves psychological rather than scientific needs. Learman also notes that many people see analysis and creativity as opposites. In reality, great mathematicians depend on creativity and great artists depend on precision.

Neuroscientist Sarah McKay, author of The book of the brains of women, Notes, This popular notion was debunked in 2013 by neuroscientists at the University of Utah who used brain imaging to show that there is NO evidence that people have a ‘right brain’ or ‘ left brain ”. the study of 1,011 people aged 7 to 29 scanned more than 7,000 regions of the brain to detect stronger activity on the left or right side. They also checked the local connections between the hemispheres.

And what did they find? Jared Nielsen, a doctoral student who worked on the study, said: “We just don’t see models where the whole left brain network is more connected or the whole right brain network is more connected in some people. . Personality types may have nothing to do with whether a hemisphere is more active, stronger, or more connected. ” (McKay)

McKay doesn’t think fashion is entirely harmless: “believing that you are ‘creative but not analytical’, or ‘logical and unintuitive’ and that this is hardwired into your brain, is a rather limiting belief and probably becomes self-fulfilling. after a while.”

Fashion has made inroads into education:

Educators are increasingly encouraged to take courses on “brain-based learning”. These courses often illustrate how ingrained these neuromyths have become. For example, some brain-based learning courses encourage teachers to identify students as having left or right brains and to adapt their teaching approach to these different learning styles. As a result, many teachers believe this is a valid and scientifically substantiated idea. For example, in a sample of 242 teachers, 90% agreed with the statement “differences in left brain right brain [preference] can help explain individual differences between learners. This is alarming given that this belief can influence how teachers instruct specific students or groups of students and lead to unconscious biases about a given student’s academic abilities (for example, a teacher assumes that a student referred to as “right brain” is not good at math).

Kara blacker, “Debunking the left brain / right brain myth” at Institute of Learning Sciences (December 15, 2016)

Then, she adds, students can come to believe it themselves and hinder their own performance. Meanwhile, researchers reported in a 2019 literature review that left and right brain theories were “unlikely” to improve academic performance.

In short, today the theory works best as an icebreaker and a board game.

You can also read:

No, you don’t have a lizard brain in your human brain. The “lizard brain” is part of what science once knew about the brain.

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