Right Brained, Wrong Brained: How Caltech Neuroscience Became a Buzzfeed Quiz

Jason G. Goldman in Los Angeles Magazine:

ScreenHunter_1033 Feb. 28 19.00Somewhere between art class and algebra, most of us learn—probably after struggling in one area and excelling in the other—which “side” of our brain is dominant. You are either left brained or right brained. (And if you are in doubt, you can turn to any number of online tests to peg your hemispheric tendencies once and for all.) Left brainers are supposed to be analytical, orderly, mathematical, and good with language. Right brainers tend to be more disorganized, creative, artistic, and visual. A test on BuzzFeed informs me that I’m right brained, though as a science writer, my background would suggest that I draw more from the left. This cognitive shorthand for establishing left- or right-brain dominance doesn’t just aid us in discerning the nature of our talents and shortcomings, it has fueled TED talks, magazine articles, and best-selling books on how to make the most of your alpha side and shore up the weaker one.

Angelenos are always looking for new target areas for self-improvement, but there’s an inherent flaw in treating the two sides of the brain as if they’re biceps. Cognitive development doesn’t work that way. As the neuroscientist whose research helped define split-brain theory in humans will tell you, you’re limiting your potential by trying to fit something as complicated as the brain into two tidy categories.

“There’s a folk psychology that says people have two skills—they’re more verbal or more visual, more artistic or more analytical,” says Michael S. Gazzaniga, director of the SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “But the simple dynamics of ‘the left brain does this, the right brain does that’ are way overdone.”

More here.