I am not a neuropsychologist so I’ve let the left brain-logic/right brain-creative issue ride. After all, that sort of simplification is not going to kill anyone and it might just help sometimes. But with the increase in focus – via everything from apps and exercises to meditation – on hauling your right brain out from under its mossy rock to perform in public, I’m pleased to see a nice clear and competent article that puts the matter straight.
Christian Jarrett is editor of The Psychologist – the professional magazine outlet for the British Psychological Society – and he busts the myth, critically without destroying hope. While the left and right hemispheres can certainly be shown to do different things – particularly when surgically separated – they are actually designed to work together and the right brain may not have the edge on its partner for creativity:
One of the most fascinating insights from the split-brain studies was the way the left hemisphere made up stories to explain what the right hemisphere was up to.
This is a short, easy read with no complex neuro-babble and it might just make it easier to give your right brain a break. A longer article might have discussed how left handers – some of whom have left/right brain functional reversal – fit into the picture. For instance, while language is largely represented in the left hemisphere in right handers, it is often located in the right for lefties, or even bi laterally represented. And visual stimuli aimed at the left occipital (visual) cortex and that right handers are unable to name, can often be identified by left handers. I found that out by messing up someone’s study as an undergraduate – reading words with my supposedly non verbal right brain and identifying images with my pictorially illiterate left.
The article also doesn’t discuss the role of unconscious processing. Ever wondered how it is you arrive, when speaking, at the end of a sentence with all the words in more or less the right grammatical order even though you hadn’t planned out the sentence before you began speaking? That’s your unconscious doing its stuff.
Abandoning the notion that only one side of the brain has anything to do with creativity frees us up to consider the value of the whole engine with its millions (maybe billions) of connections, all of which contribute to creative output. To me, that feels better than thinking I have to coax a shy genius out from under a blanket to make it dance.