Sunday, November 6, 2011

Misconceptions in Psychology: Left/Right Hemisphere Dominance

You probably heard people saying to you that you use your left or right brain more; movies, books, and even school, they all promote this idea. Unfortunately, this isn’t a true indicator of how you think. Thinking is actually more complex and there are more than one types of thinking implied in one process of though, despite it being analytic or creative.

This lateralization of our brain is a theory based on a very simplistic understanding of how our brain works. The whole idea started being popular after Gazzaniga and Sperry’s tests on people with epilepsy. They severed patients' corpus callosum, obtaining what was known as split brain. In tests, patients used their hemispheres independently. However, this cannot be generalized to all people, especially people who don’t suffer from epilepsy or had their corpus callosum severed. But there was a lot of fuss in the media about the discovery and soon a lot of self help books started promoting the idea that we use just one brain side. 

Seminars that would help people enhance a certain part of the brain started being really popular and everybody continued believing this erroneous theory that our brain is divided into a mathematical/deductive/logical part and another one which is creative/visual/imaginative. Next time you hear such pop-psychology in an academic environment you should point out that it might not be the best approach on how the brain works. 

Don't get me wrong though, there are differences when it comes to both hemispheres, but the similarities are much more pronounced.

PS: I want to apologize that I haven't been able to answer all the comments and comment on other blog lately.  I hope I will have more time to resume my favorite activity pretty soon. 


  1. hi andreea , thanks for bringing this subject up.
    i, like most people also think that the brain works in 2 separate sections- right and left.
    scientific and artistic.
    what an error.

  2. Thanks for clearing up this misconception!

  3. I know..I had that same misconception Andreea..thank you for this info. ;)

  4. I have read on your sharing on the 2 separate sections but some how until today I can't get it right. In fact, its covered as part of the topic for my students though I explained to them, I tell them that I just can't figure it out.

    No worries about the comments, you go ahead and do what is more important at this time. take care.

  5. Very much thanks for clearing that theory. I also have heard about that few times but have never thought on that, you gave an idea and told us the reality. 2 parts!!!

  6. Our brains are amazing... Interesting post!

  7. The brain is such an interesting place and there are so many people trying to make money off misconceptions! Interesting post!

  8. Hi! I am Isa "Wan of cooking varieties guest" from Turkey. I like your blog and following your blog. Please visit my blog and follow back. It makes me very happy. Thanks..

  9. Wan made a very good point about the sides of the brain...I honestly don't know...I have one brain in one container, so I think of it as one organ....

  10. The brain is so complicated and mysterious in its inner workings. It is amazing! Thanks for sharing this.

  11. Sorry to be a party pooper, but all I read was a stated opinion with no facts.

    1. Basically, both hemispheres process information, just in different ways. This is because if both hemispheres were to share all tasks equally it would take more energy than the body can afford. For instance, one hemisphere will process the name while the other processes the image and this information is then passed from one hemisphere to the other.
      Your dominant hemisphere is the one that houses the language center but this does not mean that it has control over the other or that you use it more. In almost 90% of people there is left hemispherical dominance, making them right handed. But around 60-70% of left handed people are also left hemispherically dominant.
      Being left hemispherically dominant does not make you logical and being right hemispherically dominant does not make you creative. There are many more factors involved in logic and creatvity than which side of your brain houses the superior language centre which people aren't informed of in many self-help books that describe them based on their personalities; which are entirely subjective.
      As of yet the brain is still a mystery in many ways so it's difficult to give you facts because you have to factor in the individual and this is unpredictable. But from observations that have been made scientists have been allowed to make assumptions as to the truth of the matter. It's a work in progress but that doesn't make the discoveries any less valid.