Not Born Yesterday

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Are You Left- or Right-Brain Dominant?

Left-brained people are smarter. Right?

Almost everything I thought I knew about right and left brain activity has been stood on its head (so to speak!) by a recent article in my local newspaper. I knew that left-brain dominant people tended to be logical, rational and organized, and that right-brain dominance fosters creativity, imagination and artistry. That about sums up my preconceived notions. 

Now I learn that our brains, contrary to popular belief, are not actually divided into two spheres. But something called the Neocortex is, and it makes up two-thirds of the brain. The explanation of what goes on there might take a left-brain dominant person to understand, but this is what I got out of it: the Neocortex is the most advanced part of the brain. The two sides of it determine how we think, and whether we are "right-brained" or "left-brained." This dominance, in turn, decides how the rest of the Neocortex will work. Left-brain dominant people are more likely to be clinical and cold in their judgments and problem solving. Language recognition is a function of the left hemisphere, too, and that makes languages easier for those with left-brain dominance. 

But what's this? Strangely enough, the left brain is wired to the right brain; the left brain controls the right brain. (I may be in over my head here!) 

The article goes on to say that logic is not the only attribute of left-brain dominance, there are more specific characteristics, too. Some are unexpected. For example, left-brained people are likely to be dog lovers, and prefer classical music. They also cannot be hypnotized. Lawyers, judges and bankers tend to be left-brained. 

So much for the left-brainers. What about the rest of us? (At this point I decided that I must be a right-brainer.) The right hemisphere is associated with cognitive skills, such as creativity, emotion and intuitiveness. It also controls the left side of the body, so right-brained people are often left-handed. Right-brain dominant people are characterized as artistic, innovative and often random. Their thought processes are sometimes viewed as irregular and roundabout, but such use of "free association" often breeds originality and inventiveness. Certain occupations are associated with right-brained people, including politics, acting and athletics. Many occupations that require creative thinking, perceptiveness and spontaneity are in the field of the right-brain dominant. 

In schools, left-brained ways of thinking are generally favored over right-brained, primarily because of the logical and analytical skills of left-brained students. Right brain focused curriculums concentrate on the visual and artistic, using metaphors, movement and role-playing. Again, certain specific characteristics are commonly found in right-brain dominant individuals, such as being good at art or sports, and being able to memorize words or lyrics easily. They can also be hypnotized. 

But are we totally one or the other? I was relieved to learn that we are not. A lot of what we consider either left or right brain activity is actually being done on both sides. In fact, the article goes on to say that most people are more or less equal on both sides of the brain, and uses the example of a scientist who is analytical and good at math, so he is characterized as being left-brained. However, he also has to be creative in order to make up and evaluate experiments, characteristic of the right-brained. 

The conclusion is drawn that a label of left- or right-brained is not important, that people should not let themselves be pigeon-holed, because both hemispheres are functioning. In other words, most people are not entirely one or the other; there is usually a mix, with a little more preference toward one side of the brain or the other. That may explain why I am artistic and creative (right-brain functions) but good at languages (a left-brain attribute).

What struck me as remarkable about this very long and scientific article, which I was barely able to understand, was not how much knowledge and research must have gone into it, but that it was actually written by a couple of local high school juniors! Obviously, today's kids are a lot "brainier" than we were in high school.

E. E. Smith is a playwright and book author. Her new series of murder mysteries debuted in 2013. The first is titled Death by Misadventure. 

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