We often hear that the left-hemisphere of the brain is responsible for our logical, analytical functions, while the right hemisphere is more about creativity and broad-mindedness. There are a number of surveys online promising to assess which side is more predominant in you, as well as promoting the seductive idea that the untapped creative power of the right brain can be developed further. What is the science behind all of this?
The two hemispheres do indeed function differently. In most people, the left hemisphere is dominant for language, while the right is implicated more strongly in emotional processing and representing the mental states of others. However, the distinctions aren’t as clear cut as the myth makes out – for instance, the right hemisphere is involved in processing aspects of language, such as understanding context, intonation and emphasis.
A team of neuroscientists set out to test this premise and found no proof that the left- and right-brain distinction is correct. Magnetic resonance imaging of 1,000 people revealed that the human brain doesn’t actually favour one side over the other. The networks on one side aren’t generally stronger than the other side.
The two hemispheres are tied together by bundles of nerve fibres, creating an information highway. Although the two sides function differently, they work together and complement each other. You don’t use only one side of your brain at a time.
General personality traits, individual preferences, or learning style don’t translate into the notion that you’re left-brained or right-brained. Still, it’s a fact that the two sides of your brain are different, and certain areas of your brain do have specialties.