Right brain/left brain bollocks

I’m frequently sent unsolicited emails from chancers and PR companies asking me to guest post this or publicise that. Some people even go to the trouble and addressing their requests to me rather than some generic pleas for attention. My normal practice is to ignore this unwanted correspondence unless it seems to come from an actual human being who has actually engaged with the content of my blog, in which case they get a polite refusal. Never have I been moved to actually post any of the guff I’ve been sent.

Until now.

Today this dropped into my inbox:

Stuart Morris - Left and Right brain infographic

Frankly, I feel incensed to be sent such obvious and unmitigated garbage. It’s so bad and so wrong that I just had to share it with the world. Honestly, I really thought we’d moved on, but apparently people still believe in this nonsense.

Like all good myths it’s based on a kernel of truth – our brains are divided and the left hemisphere is concerned with language and reason whilst the right is concerned with creativity and emotion, but the idea that anyone is predominantly either right or left brained is just untrue: we need both hemispheres to do anything and everything. There is no such thing as a right-brain or left-brain learner.

If you’re interested in finding out exactly why it’s such pernicious, unhelpful dross, take a look at some of these links:

I could go on. And on. And on. If you want more please feel free to google it for yourself.

For a much more subtle discussion about the divided brain, I can heartily recommend this talk by Iain McGilchrist which Chris Parson shared with me in the comments below:

Anyway, the moral of this story is, do have a bit of think before asking me to share your fascinating infographics with my readers.

20 Responses to Right brain/left brain bollocks

  1. Nicola Kennedy says:

    But it is such an attractive poster…..which probably means it will soon be on display in a school near you!

  2. Not truly related, but the title of the blog made me think of the book title “Pink Brain, Blue Brain” by Lise Eliot (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pink-Brain-Blue-Differences-Troublesome/dp/1851687408), which I think you’d enjoy (if you haven’t read it already!)

  3. This isn’t disagreeing with you David – but this animated Ted talk from Iain McGilchrist first of all does away with the same myths you refer to above, before incredibly clearly giving an exposition regarding the apparently genuine differences between left and right brain specialisation. One of the most nutritious 11 minutes I’ve spent on Ted.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/iain_mcgilchrist_the_divided_brain

    • David Didau says:

      That’s a wonderful talk – thank you. Lots to think about…

    • David; I’m glad you posted this… just the intro line had me cringing with ‘most people can be labelled’ and ‘the brain that performs different tasks’. Thanks for the TED reference Chris. This is the note I made as I watched: “Perfection bought ultimately at the price of emptiness… oops, this sounds much like many school systems as they exist right now!” P.S. Liking how you call this ‘nutritious’ …when I first started reading truly for myself, I was trying to describe how brilliant the feeling is to my family, and kept using food analogies! Haha.

      • Thanks Leah – yes I’m big on food analogies. I’ve created an extended MasterChef metaphor of teaching that I might stick on my blog some day – something to savour if you take the time to digest it 😉

      • It’s on my list! I took the time to read yours… you should do a Ted talk! 😀

        • Me? Gosh, who would watch it?

          His book is a tour de force… I read it for trivium – I used one of his quotes… There is an RSA video of him talking about his book too btw…

          • Thanks for the tip about the book and the vid… I wasn’t sure whether you wanted an actual response to your question, but… you’d be amazed at how many bored housewives there are with children at independent schools – they’d watch your talk, go a bit swoony, and then be straight on the email to their Head, making new recommendations for the direction the school should go in… 😉

    • teachwell says:

      Loved the video and its explanation – so brilliant and focused. It shows the difference between actual science and pseudo-science. I am afraid that we are so used to the latter in education and I love all the reading I have been able to do since I left the classroom (though I don’t think I should have had to leave in order to do so….) as I can see the truth in so much of the bunkum. Now to get the teachers thinking about this critically…

  4. John Hodgson says:

    Thank you, Chris – I was just about to post that McGilchrist (a former English teacher turned psychiatrist and neuroscientist) offers a much more subtle take – http://bit.ly/splitbrainviews

  5. Hugo kerr says:

    H sapiens loves to take the mile when offered the inch. When “studies show” the possibility of A, we immediately claim M, R and even Z as proven. The brain is immense and subtle, perhaps much more flexible than we think today. There are differences between left and right brains. We know that. How innate these are is unknown. It leads directly into the “learning styles” mythology too. How innate are these? people are trying to build reputations, so we should forgive some of their dogmatic assertions as exuberance, but the audience, us, should wear a sceptical hat indoors and out.

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