Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The New Left/Right Brain Myth?

I'm sure most of you are familiar with the left/right brain myth, which suggests that people who are "left brained" are more logical and analytical and those who are "right brained" are more creative and artistic. Hopefully the vast majority of you also know that this is wrong, although a shocking amount proportion of the general public do seem to actually believe this myth and it even gets incorporated into our education systems. It may be simple to think that, just like you can prefer to use one hand over another (handedness) you also prefer to use one side of the brain (brainedness?). This is wrong. 

Anyway, I'm getting off topic. First a quick bit of housekeeping: on 15th March TEDxUoN are hosting an event about "Breaking Boundaries" including 12 amazing speakers, brilliant performance acts and free food! be sure to buy your tickets and check the TEDx portion of my blog for more details

Okay, back to the matter at hand. If you read the Metro today (I promise I'm not a regular reader) you will have probably seen the cover to cover advert for creative pioneers, asking "what brain are you?". The terrible grammar should be a first sign of things to come, as it then goes on to describe three types of brain; linear, lateral and diagonal. The second warning sign is that, because the metro is stapled together, you can't actually read the middle part of the advert! 

According to them; a linear brain is analytical and enjoys numbers, so might make a good data analyst, a lateral brain is inventive and creative, so might make a good graphic designer; and a diagonal brain is practical and likes to get things done, so might make a good project manager. In terms of matching traits this is fine, someone good with numbers would probably be a good data analyst etc, but the linear/lateral/diagonal brain thing is just plain stupid. What does it even mean? As a student of neuroscience, I can honestly say I have never heard anyone use the term "lateral brained". Some people are better at "linear thinking" or "lateral thinking" but that doesn't mean that you have a linear/lateral brain and what the hell is diagonal thinking??? 



The brain classifications according to creative pioneers


Some of you might think I'm just moaning (and to some extent, I am), but when it comes to important issues such as picking your career (which creative pioneers is supposed to be about) it can be damaging to shoe-horn people into different categories just for the sake of a gimmick. 

They equate each "brain type" to a single word so that linear, lateral, diagonal becomes plan, create, do.  Say you took a project manager, they would need to plan, create and do. So would most of the jobs they listed and the vast majority of other career pathways. This categorisation of people based only on one key attribute will deter people from pursuing a career that they could excel at, just because some marketing campaign told them they shouldn't! For the most part, the vast majority of people perform well in  more than one of these categories. Therefore at their best they are useless for most of us and at their worst they can push people down a path that could be bad for them in the long run. 

So before you take on board anything to do with how your brain works, especially from a marketing campaign, question whether what they are saying really makes sense, ask for evidence (there is no hypothesis here so obviously there is no evidence) and take it with one whopping great heapful of salt! 

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