Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Left Brain/Right Brain

Solid science sometimes devolves into pseudoscience, but the imprimatur of being science nevertheless may remain. No better example of this is the popular "left brain/right brain" narrative about the specializations of the cerebral hemispheres. According to this narrative, the left hemisphere is logical, analytic, and linguistic whereas the right is intuitive, creative, and perceptual. Moreover, each of us purportedly relies primarily on one half-brain, making us "left-brain thinkers" or "right-brain thinkers."
This characterization is misguided, and it's time to put it to rest.
Two major problems can be identified at the onset:
First, the idea that each of us relies primarily on one or the other hemisphere is not empirically justifiable. The evidence indicates that each of us uses all of our brain, not primarily one side or the other. The brain is a single, interactive system, with the parts working in concert to accomplish a given task.
Second, the functions of the two hemispheres have been mischaracterized. Without question, the two hemispheres engage in some different kinds of information processing. For example, the left preferentially processes details of objects we see whereas the right preferentially processes the overall shape of objects we see; the left preferentially processes syntax (the literal meaning), the right pragmatics (the indirect or implied meaning) and so forth. Our two hemispheres are not like our two lungs: One is not a "spare" for the other, redundant in function. But none of these well-documented hemispheric differences come close to what's described in the popular narrative.
It is time to move past the popular but incorrect left brain/right brain narrative.
Author / Source: Stephen M. Kosslyn at Edge