Preparing for Instruction 4: Right vs Left Brain Myth

Most of us have probably heard at one time or another that people are either right brain dominated or left brain dominated. Righties are supposed to be more creative and/or in touch with their emotional side, while lefties are supposed to be more analytical. How much of this is true?

Very little!

In this article, the right vs left brain myth is debunked. The root of the myth appears to date back to research done by Sperry in the 1960’s, where he studies patients who had damage to the corpus callosum (the structure that connects the two hemispheres of the brain). In his research he did find peculiarities of certain preferences for one side in patients. This was misinterpreted by popular media to the myth we know today.

Many researchers have since tried to reproduce the results. While brain scans show that there is some grounding to certain types of processing taking place in a particular hemisphere (such as analytic tasks originating on the left side, creative tasks on the right), it is the connection between these two hemispheres that allow us to interpret and make meaning of most tasks.

What does this mean for Learning and Teaching?

As reflective practitioners, I think we need to be aware of these myths and more importantly how these inaccurate popularized myths can affect learners. This is just one example of how analytic and rational thinking gets privileged over creative or emotional thinking. We need to be aware of these dichotomies, as they can affect learner’s self esteem. For an example, someone who is creative might have been labeled a right brainer, so the learner may be uneasy around highly analytic tasks because right brainers are not supposed to be good at them. By being aware of these myths, we help debunk these myths in learners by supporting learners through tasks they may be uncomfortable with.

For further debunking of this right vs left brain myth, checking out Neil deGrasse Tyson speak on this issue:


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