Left Brain + Right Brain Thinking (#105)

Gross oversimplification of hemisphericity

The human brain is a subtly brilliant thing. Its capacities and intriguing manners literally amaze me every day—to this day! Its immense size is wonderful. Its complexity is breathtaking. Everything about it is just so awesome!
It also seems better though in its original form when we accumulate and generalize it as one piece. Allow me to explain.

Left Brain/Right Brain

We’re all (hopefully) acquainted with the left brain/right brain theory. The idea that there are two sides of the brain—the left and the right side. And they both serve different roles. The left hemisphere is generally responsible for the logical, analytical thinking skillset. While the right enjoys power over creative and more imaginative thinking. As you see the picture of an artists’ depiction above, the left side of the brain is filled with logical diagrams and equations while the right side crammed with paint popping out. This is an immense oversimplification but it gives the gist.

Brain scientists who study—well … —the brain have observed this tendency in the human brain of having some functions lateralize to a particular hemisphere of the structure (brain). Which means that certain tasks which the brain carries load for are carried out solely in the left hemisphere and some particularly on the right.
Without delving into the details of the observations and remaining out of the controversy which now infiltrates the conventional wisdom of the two brain hemispheres; let’s now get to…

The Real Problem

The real problem lies in generalizing ourselves as someone being tended toward a certain side of the brain. People have started classifying themselves as someone being left-brained Or, on the other hand as someone being not too good at math for he or she is a right-brained creature.

In fact the whole left brain/right brain thing is a myth. At least there is no evidence that creative endeavors switch on the light in the right hemisphere and math or logic sends signals only to the left hemisphere of the brain. However, no evidence of truth doesn’t prove it false. But still, we need evidence before we can claim the reality of such theories.
Certain areas of the brain do manage particular functions. For example it is evident that the function of speech and language is typically lateralized to the left hemisphere of the brain. This and other scientific data misled some people into believing that the two sides of the brain controlled different functions (i.e. the left brain – logic and the right – emotion). But the fact remains that there is no evidence for creativity being awarded only to the right side of the brain and logic solely to the left.
In a 2013 study from the University of Utah, brain scans demonstrate that activity is similar on both sides of the brain regardless of one’s personality.
They looked at the brain scans of more than 1,000 young people between the ages of 7 and 29 and divided different areas of the brain into 7,000 regions to determine whether one side of the brain was more active or connected than the other side. No evidence of “sidedness” was found. The authors concluded that the notion of some people being more left-brained or right-brained is more a figure of speech than an anatomically accurate description.

Nevertheless, the figure of speech of the conventional wisdom that people can be classified as left and right brained individuals remains. And that is The Real Problem. Why? It’s simple.
When you classify yourself as being someone who is left/right brain tended:
1) You undervalue your potential. And;
2) (If there was such a thing as a left brained or right brained person) the world needs more of both-sided brained (or whole-brain) individuals (and teams).

The first point is simple. The second reason needs a bit more elaboration.

Study the science of art and the art of science.

Leonardo da Vinci

When I think of a whole brained world reformer, a Renaissance, I think of none other greater individual than the most brilliant polymath Leonardo da Vinci. He is the definition of a person who uses both (fictitious) sides of their brain. A complete polymath. His awe-inspiring, renowned paintings are a work of art, yes. But they are much more than that. Here is a list of the subjects he studied throughout basically his entire life: anatomy, botany, geology, astronomy and physics, mechanics, architecture, weaponry, music, cartography, hydrodynamics, mathematics and geometry.

He was an inventor, a painter, a scientist, a painting scientist, a scientific painter. Most importantly he had a strong urge for learning things. And he became a successful polymath. He used his scientific knowledge combined with his creative artistry—a rare catch in modern times. Many “generalists” will study and bring awareness of various or all subjects. That is a fools’ errand if that person does not go deep into each of the subjects. Leonardo did go deep. He was what Tim Ferris calls a specialized generalist. He went deep into all subjects of his curiosity. Then he made amazing connections from these wide range of studies. He was able to think better. And he now is the prototype of a real polymath.

And that remains, I think, Leonardo da Vinci’s greatest strength. To be a whole brained thinker. Combining logic with emotion, science with art and his left hemispherical brain with the right.

To become better, to live a life of “fullness” and to discover our limitless potential brilliantly; we need to use both the human capacities in an equal and balanced manner—one which is most relevant. And not fall back on the tendency to blame ourselves for being left or right brained.

Also, remember:
Creativity is a skill. Logic is a skill. Treat your brain like a muscle. Go work out—and don’t forget leg day!

References

Right brain/left brain, right? – Harvard Health Publishing

The left brain vs. right brain myth – Elizabeth Waters – TED-Ed

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