By Megan Choy
The human brain is a complex organ that regulates all processes in our body including our emotions, thoughts, memory, movement, breathing, and nervous system. It weighs about 1.5kg and contains about 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion connections.
Our brain is divided into two halves, known as hemispheres, with each half controlling specific functions, also known as brain lateralization. Brain lateralization is also linked to handedness where right-handers are more dominant in the left hemisphere of the brain while left-handers are more dominant in the right hemisphere of the brain.
Difference in Brain Functions
With each side of the brain being responsible for different functions, this has led to the widely conventional belief that people have a tendency to think or do things in a manner that is either right-brained or left-brained. As a result, people who are more right-brained or left-brained are characterized with certain personality styles. For example, people who are right-brained are said to be more intuitive and creative people. They see the world from a big-picture perspective and are more expressive. On the other hand, people who are left-brained are said to be more logical and analytical. They pay attention to objective details and have strong math skills.
A Perspective on Brain Myths
Although brain lateralization can explain a person’s preference for their right hand or left hand, the brain is incredibly complex. It can be true that some people are stronger at analytical thinking while others are stronger at creative thinking. However, there is no evidence to support that these differences in traits are due to one side of the brain being more dominant than the other. A 2013 study from the University of Utah found that brain activity demonstrated from brain scans is similar on both sides of the brain regardless of one’s personality. Other studies found that brain activation was found in both sides of the brain for creative thought and does not favour one side of the brain over the other. Overall, both sides of the brain complementarily work with each other to support general processes. Whether we are solving logical math tasks or designing abstract art works, both sides of the brain are actively functioning.
These preferences for analytical or creative thinking may be explained by individual’s different personality types which are unlikely to be explained by one side of the brain being more dominant than the other. Instead, our brains are capable of learning holistically and can activate various parts on either side of the brain to process our day-to-day world efficiently. Thus, the next time you come across online quizzes to test for brain dominance or even “right-brain training”, just remember that every single one of us are activating both sides of the brain efficiently! Perhaps we could play to the advantage of our preferences (i.e.., analytical vs. creative; or big picture vs. detail-oriented) to help us make decisions, remember things better and even solve problems!