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Are You Left- or Right-Brain Dominant?

Left-brained people are smarter. Right?

Key points

  • "Left-brained" people are said to be more likely to be clinical and cold in their judgments and problem-solving.
  • "Right-brained" people are often characterized as artistic, innovative, and random.
  • Nobody is truly right- or left-brained. A lot of what is considered left or right brain activity is actually done on both sides.

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 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 essentially the neocortex is the most advanced part of the brain. It determines how we think, and whether we are "right-brained" or "left-brained." Dominance decides how the entire neocortex works. 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 strangely enough, the left brain is wired to the right brain; the left brain controls the right brain.

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? The right hemisphere is associated with creativity, emotion, and intuition. 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 the 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 curricula 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 really one or the other? We are not. A lot of what we consider either left or right brain activity is actually being done on both sides. In fact, most people are more or less equal on both sides of the brain; take the example of a scientist who is analytical and good at math, so he is characterized as being left-brained. However, he also is creative in making up and evaluating experiments, characteristic of the right-brained.

A label of left- or right-brained is not important; people should not let themselves be pigeonholed, 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).