You may not have a split personality, but you do have a split mind! (sort of.) Your brain is divided into two distinct hemispheres, and each one focuses on different functions. So: right brain vs. left brain — what’s the difference?
Your brain is a marvelous thing! It only weighs about three pounds, and although it’s made up largely of fat and water, that miraculous little engine controls everything you do — and how you do it!
Different parts of your brain influence behavior, logic, and more—and basic functions are controlled separately from higher thinking and feeling concepts. We can credit a lot of this big-brain 411 to Nobel Prize-winning psychobiologist Roger W. Sperry. In the 1960s, he mapped out that the two halves function differently yet work together.
The brain's left side is basically seen as the nerdy kid in class who aces tests and slaps an apple on the teacher’s desk. It’s said to be more about:
Your mind’s right side is supposedly the fabulously creative drama student who lets his freak flag fly every now and again. The left hemisphere is thought to be the center of:
- Big pictures
- Free thought or daydreaming
In pop culture and society, this theory carried over into careers and job functions, kind of the way that those personality tests assess things.
If you were an accountant, computer scientist, bookkeeper, analyst of any kind, scientist, or engineer, you gotta be left-brain dominant, right?. On the other side, artists, musicians, poets, novelists, photographers, and the like were assumed to be stronger on the right side of their brains.
But things aren’t quite that simple. And there is (at least) a third option.
So, what’s the ultimate difference between right brain vs left brain?
TBH, no one is exactly sure! Science doesn’t back up the idea that there's a concrete dividing line in people when it comes to the right brain vs left brain. We all use both!
Thanks to MRI technology, psychologists and doctors have imaged people’s brains and learned that they employ both sides of the ol’ noggin on a wide range of things. But the use differed based on the task the person was asked to complete.
The human brain is extremely adaptable, and researchers found that people could tap into either side of it, depending on what they were doing and regardless of what they considered their stronger hemisphere.
Even though the brain's halves are thought to be responsible for the different skills listed above, no one fits neatly into just one or the other category! Many people use one side more than the other regularly, but some individuals are straight-up “center-brained”—relying on both sides pretty equally.
Thus, it’s not black and white, even though our left-brain-dominant cliché might like it to be!
Which is dominant for you: right, left … or straight up the middle?
There are lots of “just for fun” quizzes online you can take to find out which half of your brain is the dominant part, though these are hardly scientific. And you may already have a pretty good idea, at least from your Kindle summer reading list of calculus or abstract art books!
But to find out (ahem) “for sure,” you can check out a couple of these assessments:
Keep in mind that your results may show that you are evenly divided between the two halves. We all shift from one to another based on what our life requires in the moment, but some folks are really adept at using both.
For example, if you are the owner of a small business that produces highly creative work — say, art, music, writing, interior design, or food — much of your time is spent on creative, innovative endeavors. But you ALSO must be able to manage the boring stuff, like schedules, finances, and logistics.
So, depending on what life and work need, your highly adaptive brain will shift “dominance” and rise to the occasion!
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