Right Brained or Left Brained? It’s a Myth

right brained left brained lateralization

Have you taken one of the popular internet tests to see whether you are right brained or left brained? Whatever the results, it turns out that the whole idea of right or left brain hemisphere dominance is a myth. Scientists have never supported the idea that a person is generally ruled by one side of the brain over the other, and now they’ve procured the data necessary to debunk the myth for good.

It is believed that the right brain versus left brain idea was born from the research and medical procedures performed by Nobel Prize-winning Roger Sperry in the 1960s. Sperry was a medical researcher concerned with epileptic patients whose problems seemed to arise from a miscommunication between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. In order to relieve his patients, Sperry carried out a procedure to cut apart the two hemispheres along the corpus callosum, whereby the two halves of the brain could no longer send messages to one another. Successful surgery gave patients with severe epilepsy the ability to lead more normal lives, with the entire brain still able to learn and function.

During Sperry’s experiments, he and his research team discovered that the language center of each patient’s brain was largely focused in the left hemisphere, as well as the centers for math. The idea of specific thought and processing centers was a groundbreaking idea for psychologists and psychoanalysts who wondered in turn if an entire personality could be determined by the most active brain centers.

Scientists at the University of Utah have conducted a 1000-subject experiment to determine more about the lateralization of the brain, hoping to find treatment options for certain brain-based diseases. After lengthy study, the researchers found no compelling evidence that a person is dominated by either their right brain or their left brain. Instead, the data shows that most of the time, an individual is essentially both right brained and left brained, since activity in both hemispheres is roughly equal.

This does not mean that certain activities, such as speaking or drawing, are not centered in one part of the brain. Instead, it means that while one brain region is highly active, it communicates with other regions throughout both hemispheres to accomplish the task. In every physical or mental action, the entire brain is in use to a certain degree.

The common misconception among the non-scientific community concerning the functions of brain hemispheres is about personal identity. Analytical people who excel at math and language are thought to be left brained, while creative people who enjoy painting and artistic pursuits are considered right brained. The myth has existed as a way for people to better understand and describe themselves; unfortunately, the science just isn’t there to back up the popular theory.

Right brained versus left brained tests are constructed to stimulate certain brain centers, which often can determine the end result. At any time of the day, the same person could be given two completely different scores from the very same test.

Written by Mandy Gardner


Live Science – Left Brain vs. Right: It’s a Myth, Research Finds

PLOS ONE – An Evaluation of the Left-Brain vs. Right-Brain Hypothesis with Resting State Functional Connectivity Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Wall Street Journal – A New Map of How We Think: Top Brain/Bottom Brain

Nobel Prize – The Split Brain Experiments

3 Responses to "Right Brained or Left Brained? It’s a Myth"

  1. Mandy Gardner   October 23, 2013 at 9:52 am

    Good catch Tony 🙂

  2. Tony Rhodes (@Isuszhivyot)   October 23, 2013 at 12:53 am

    Nice to have myths exploded but haven’t you got the supposed halves round the wrong way? (Last but one paragraph)

  3. Pat Fanjoy   October 22, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Very interesting article and well written.

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