Left brain or Right brain thinkers?

Have conversations of left and right brain ever made you wonder.

Many people proclaim themselves to being left brain or right brain thinkers. When all of us have both the left and the right brain why are we more polished on one side?

Or are we?  

Left brain people are said to be more rational, analytic, and controlling, while right brain people are said to be more intuitive, creative, emotionally expressive and spontaneous.

Are we saying the brain muscles know the meanings of these words and decide one over the other?

Let’s analyse a few words from the list above:

Rational –  having the ability to reason.

Intuitive – using or based on what one feels to be true even without conscious reasoning; instinctive.

Analytic – putting to use methodical, systematic approaches to arrive at conclusions

Creative – ability to connect dots and imagination to create something original

Now let’s apply our beliefs of left brain and right brain to the popular story believed to be the reason behind the Archimedes principle of Buoyancy.

‘Eureka!’ – The Story of Archimedes and the Golden Crown

As per this story it is believed that the phenomenon of water overflowing as Archimedes lowered himself in the bath was the reason for him to be able to propose the Archimedes principle, which states that a body partially or completely immersed in a fluid is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the body.

It can be clearly seen from the story that Archimedes’ intuition/instinct to react to the overflowing water brought about rational thinking and bridged the unconscious to conscious reasoning. He creatively connected the displacement of water in the bath tub to the possibility of using the same technique to identify pure gold. Finally he logically proposed the solution and analytically proved the solution. His spontaneous emotional expression of nude ‘Eureka’ has a major role to play in the popularity of the story and connectivity to buoyancy in the world of children.

So should we assume that Archimedes was only a left brain thinker?

Was Newton only a left brain thinker with his creative ability to connect the dots of an apple falling to gravity.

“It’s absolutely true that some brain functions occur in one or the other side of the brain. Language tends to be on the left, attention more on the right. But people don’t tend to have a stronger left- or right-sided brain network. It seems to be determined more connection by connection,” explained the study’s lead author Dr. Jeff Anderson.

The left brain has the tools for mainly vertical/convergent thinking and the right brain has the tools for lateral/divergent thinking. Vertical/convergent thinking helps to systematically formulate solutions and lateral/divergent thinking makes the metaphorical connections and provides originality to these solutions.

I very recently ran into  brilliant use of divergent/lateral thinking with a set of preschoolers:

In one of the sessions on Universe we had been conversing about the formation of Earth and how Earth was originally as hot as the Sun; the Earth has now cooled off but the Sun has not. A 4 year old instinctly asked:

“Why is Sun so hot?”

The question took me by a surprise as I tried to struggle to explain to a 4 year old the mass of the sun, friction between particles…..

Pondering over the best way to answer the question for that age group I asked the kids to rub their hands and experience the heat.. We did this for sometime and touched each other to feel the warmth.

Immediately one of them reacted, ” How many hands does the sun have?”

That not only landed a smile on my face but made it easier to explain about the amount of gas, particles and heat reactions that occur because of rubbing of particles….

Divergent thinking is the process of generating multiple related ideas for a given topic or solutions to a problem. Divergent thinking occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing, ‘non-linear’ manner.

Convergent thinking, on the other hand, is the ability to apply rules to arrive at a single ‘correct’ solution to a problem such as the answer to an IQ test problem. This process is systematic and linear.

Lateral or divergent thinking lies at the core of human cognition and is a key component for a multitude of functions such as problem solving, reasoning, and discovery and learning. It has been argued that the very act of forming an analogy requires a kind of “mental leap,” inasmuch as it necessitates seeing one thing as if it were another (Holy-oak & Thagard, 1995). Many scientific discoveries frequently rely on these mental leaps, and analogy forms the basis for our everyday problem solving, from the simplest instance to the most sophisticated reasoning strategy. Whereas vertical or convergent thinking provides structure, methodology, formulation, verification to our solution for repetitive reproduction.

So next time you think left brain and right brain, think different….

Don’t think in isolation….

They are both equally important and need to be both worked on….

Imagine a scientist who cannot creatively connect thoughts and a painter who cannot sell his paintings…