Left-Brain vs. Right-Brain Learning Styles

If you’re a creative person, then you may believe that you’re a right-brain thinker. If you’re a logical and organized person, then you may be a left-brain thinker. The distinctions about the dominance of the left brain or right brain in a person is said to guide students and workers to function more efficiently. You may have also taken online quizzes or tests to determine if you’re a right-brain or left-brain thinker.

People described as left-brain thinkers are told to have strong logic and math skills. Meanwhile, those who are described as right-brain thinkers are told that their talents are more creative. Given the popularity of this theory, it might surprise you that this idea is one of the many myths about the brain.

How the Brain Works

The brain is a complex organ. It contains about a hundred billion neurons and 100 trillion connections. Your brain is a command central of all that you think, do, and feel. It is divided into two halves or hemispheres, and within each half, particular regions control certain functions. The two sides of the brain look alike, but there’s a big difference on how they process information. But despite their differences, the two regions of the brain don’t work independently of each other but they work together.

If a brain injury causes the connection between two sides of the brain to be severed, the brain can still function but the lack of integration can cause some impairment.

The Left-Brain/Right-Brain Dominance Theory

This theory states that people are either left-brained or right-brained, meaning that one side of their brain is often more dominant than the other. Like most psychology myths, this theory grew out of observations of the human brain that were dramatically exaggerated.

The left-brain/right-brain dominance theory is based on the fact that the two hemispheres of the brain function differently. This was first observed in the 1960s, due to the research of psychobiologist and Nobel Prize laureate Roger W. Sperry. Sperry studied brain functioning in patients who had their corpus callosum surgically severed to treat refractory epilepsy.

The corpus callosum is the brain structure that connects the right and left hemispheres of the brain. In Sperry’s study, the patients were found to experience other symptoms after the corpus callosum was cut. Many split-brain patients, found themselves unable to name objects processed by the right side of the brain, but were able to name objects processed by the left side of the brain. Based on this information, Sperry concluded that language is processed by the left side of the brain.

According to Sperry’s research, the left brain is adept at tasks involving:

  • Logic
  • Analytical thinking
  • Language
  • Sequencing
  • Mathematics and numbers
  • Facts
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Reasoning

Meanwhile, the right brain is perceived to be more visual and intuitive. It is sometimes reffered to as the analog brain that has a more creative and less organized way of thinking. Sperry’s research suggests that the right brain is connected to:

  • Imagination
  • Intuition
  • Arts
  • Rhythm
  • Non-verbal cues
  • Holistic thinking
  • Feelings visualization
  • Expressing emotions
  • Recognizing faces
  • Daydreaming
  • Being creative

Further Research

The two sides of the brain are different, but does it necessarily mean that we have a dominant side of the brain, just as we have a dominant hand. Later research show that the brain is not as dichotomous as once thought. For example, there’s one research that found that the abilities in subjects like math are strongest when both halves of the brain work together.

A number of neuroscientists have taken a shot to test this premise. After a two-year analysis in one study using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), experts have found no proof that this theory is correct. The MRI of 1,000 people showed that the human brain doesn’t favor one side over the other. In fact, the brain is found to work together and complement each other. It means that the brain doesn’t work using only one side at a time.

The study also revealed that while doing certain activities make one side of the brain work more than the other, both sides are essentially equal in their activity on average.

Persisting Myth

Even though this theory has been debunked and proven incorrect, its popularity persists. Why? Sadly, many people are still unaware that this theory is outdated. In fact, the idea seems to have taken a mind on its own in pop psychology culture.

You can still find magazine articles, books, and online quizzes that are suggesting that you can unleash the power of your mind if you discover which side of your brain is dominant. However, there is always merit in identifying your brain’s strengths and weaknesses, because it can help you develop better ways to learn new information and skills.

The important thing to take note is if you take one of the many left-brain/right-brain quizzes online, they are entirely made for fun and you shouldn’t place too much thought in your results.