An excellent post from Clive Shepherd points to an article on neuroscientific myths and their detrimental effect on education and training. The one that has always disturbed me is the deliberately misleading ‘left-right brain’ theory. It has been used to support endless tracts telling us that we should liberate ourselves from too much left-brain ‘logical’ thinking and enjoy the fruits of our liberated, right-brained creativity.
Psychology or phrenology?
Are you right (creative) or left (logical) brained? In fact, you’re both. The right/left brain myth resulted from split-brain research in the 60s, now largely rejected. People and their brains can no longer be characterised or caricatured as right and left brainers. This is now seen as a primitive form of simplistic labelling, or phrenology.
Neurology, through scanning, shows a very different, and complex, picture. Research now sees the distinction between the two hemispheres as being very subtle. Every mental faculty seems to be shared across the brain, with complementary contributions. It is the combination, not separation, that matters. The mutually exclusive model has all but disappeared from the literature.
Right brain good, left brain bad
False analogical leaps were made from simple linguistic tests and surgical experiments to strict dichotomies between reason and creativity, linear and holistic, eastern and western thought – left and right brain. Unfortunately the left-brain, right-brain model still flourishes in populist self-help and pop-psychology books, courses and products. The line taken is often one of the dominant, left, rational brain censoring the poor, artistic, creative right side, to the detriment of the person and society.
Just as star signs belong to astrology, not astronomy, split-brain theories belong to phrenology, not psychology.