In the RSAnimate video, The Divided Brain, Iain McGilchrist makes a fascinating argument that certain activities such as art, emotion and language aren’t uniquely left or right brain functions. Rather, his humorously narrated animation offers a more nuanced explanation for modes of thinking: Our left hemisphere is concerned with narrowly focused attention while the right allows us to maintain sustained, broad alertness of surroundings. Linda Verlee Williams relates this another way in her book Teaching for the Two-sided Mind: The left sifts out the parts that constitute a whole while the right combines those parts to create a whole. Left hemisphere=fragmentation; right hemisphere=synthesis. So what does this imbalance mean?
The more left brain dominant we become, the more we fragment reality so that it can be understood, quantified. We emphasize critical thinking skills of analysis, logic, and accuracy over synthesis, creating, and relating. McGilchrist argues this results in paradoxical conditions: we pursue happiness yet mental illness is skyrocketing. We strive for freedom and technological advances but are weighed down by bureaucracy and loss of privacy. We strive for perfection, but end up feeling empty.
Can we tilt the cerebral scales in favor of more balance? I googled “brain function balance” and was overwhelmed by info touting optimal brain functioning through hormone replacement, electric shock, and i-Phone games. I’ll keep searching and share what I find. In the meantime, I leave you with this from Thomas Merton, “Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”
- The Divided Brain | @GrrlScientist | Punctuated Equilibrium (guardian.co.uk)
- Intuition and rationality – how it works in decision making (genesismc.co.uk)
- The tyranny of the “left brain” – RSA Animate (shorequalblog.com)
- Short-tempered, impulsive men have missing brain chemical (news.bioscholar.com)
- Video Game Uses Brain to Control Action (pcworld.com)