A common myth that still pops up is that you use one side of your brain more than the other, and whichever side you use denotes whether you are technical or creative. With so many articles still around to spread this old wives tale, the NPR Cosmos & Culture blog decided to cut to the truth. The answer?
It takes both sides to be logical and creative.
A left hemisphere advantage for math is mostly seen for tasks like counting and reciting multiplication tables, which rely heavily on memorized verbal information (thus, not exactly what we think of as “logical”!). And there are right hemisphere advantages on some math-related tasks as well, especially estimating the quantity of a set of objects. This kind of pattern, in which both hemispheres of the brain make critical contributions, holds for most types of cognitive skills. It takes two hemispheres to be logical – or to be creative.
However, it is true that we use each individual hemispheres for certain tasks.
Dividing up tasks and allowing the hemispheres to work semi-independently and take different approaches to the same problem seems to be a good strategy for the brain … just as it often is in a partnerships between people.
The bottom line?
But I think the answer to your question is that what we see across the pattern of asymmetries is neither a random collection of unrelated differences nor divisions based on one or even a small set of functional principles (e.g., the left hemisphere is “local” and the right hemisphere is “global” … another popular one). Rather, some of the underlying biology is skewed, and this has far reaching consequences for the kinds of patterns that can be set up over time in the two hemispheres, leading to sets of functional differences that we can hopefully eventually link systematically to these underlying biological causes, and thereby deepen our understanding of how the brain works.
Read more about the left vs. right brain relationship (including interesting experiments with split-brained patients!) here.
This article was originally published on 99u.com.
Sasha is the assistant editor and community manager of 99U. You can watch her tweet or find out more at her personal website.