Don't Just Use the Left or Right Brain - Use it All

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

World famous neurologist Sperry wond a Nobel prize winner for his groundbreaking research on human brain functions.  Sperry was totally surprised to find that people had a tendency to use one hemisphere of the brain more than the other.  When Sperry began his research in the early 50s, the concept of selective bias in the use of one or the other side of the brain did not exist.  From his research he concluded that individuals were either predominantly left-brain users or right-brain users.  

 Sperry had set out to localize the brain functions, that is, to determine which particular part or parts of the brain were involved in specific mental tasks.  Thanks to his research, we now know that the left brain hemisphere is predominantly involved in the mathematical, logical, analytic, and academic tasks.  These tasks may involve linear thinking, and making use of alphabets, numbers, scales, lists, etc..  The right brain hemisphere is involved predominantly in creative and artistic tasks which involve images, colors, shapes, sounds, rhythm, etc.   The left brain is interested in details, analyses, and a detached intellectual perspective of events and experiences.  The right brain is interested in the whole rather than the details or the parts.  The right brain appreciates the sensuous, philosophical and emotional aspects of our experiences. 

 The distribution of function between the right and the left brain soon caught the fancy of psychologists and educators.  However, it now appears that we have overestimated the dichotomy between the left and the right brain.  Furthermore, this dichotomy is more prominent in the case of adults than of children.  

 When children explore an object, they use all of their faculties.  They may touch the object at hand, feel it, see it from every angle, and shake it to see if it makes any sound.  They are excited by colors, shapes and movement and manipulate objects in several different ways, at times to our delight and other times, much to our annoyance.  But the fact is, they are not merely using the left or the right brain, but the whole brain.  Such an approach has its advantages.  For example, we adults marvel at how good children are with computers.  Part of the reason is that their whole brain is involved in "playing" with computers.  As a result of that, they learn and remember more than adults do.  

 Memory works better when you use the whole brain.  Take for example the task of memorizing a list of items.  Suppose the list contains seven items, namely, a tree, ladder, pig, table, money, candle, and book.  You are asked to memorize the list of the seven items in the exact order as given.  If you tend to predominantly use the left side of the brain, you will number each item and repeat the list to yourself a few times and thus commit the list to memory.  But, there is a problem with this way of memorizing.  If you are a person with average memory, after thirty minutes, you may at the most remember four to five words.  But after a lapse of couple days, you may remember, at the most, two or three items from that list.  

 Suppose, you try to memorize it in a different way.  This time, in addition to the left brain, you decide to involve your right brain as well.  This is how you do it.  Involve the right brain in memorizing the list by being creative.  Use your imagination.  Add color and action.  Make pictures in your mind's eye as you memorize the items.  All these are right brain activities.  So don't just repeat to yourself,  "number one is tree, number two is ladder...."  Instead, visualize a huge, strong, and unique tree.  Instead of a generic tree, make it specific, for example, an oak tree.  See a ladder hanging down from the tree with bright colored rungs and on that ladder, see a pig hanging upside down and swinging.  Lo and behold, the pig jumps down on the table and lands on the thick wad of money.  The pig lights a beautiful, red colored, sweet smelling candle, and starts reading the book, titled, "Number Seven."  

 Use colors, humor, and action generously in the scene you draw in your mind.  To memorize in this fashion is to use the whole brain.  Judge it for yourself as to which one is easier to retain in your memory.  If you memorize the list by involving your whole brain in this fashion, you will remember the items in the exact order for a long time.  In fact, it may be hard to forget it even you try to.  

 Your brain is just like your car.  If the wheels on the left side of your car are in top condition, but the right side wheels are jammed, the car can't go very far.  You need both sides of the wheels turning together for an efficient ride.  Likewise, let the wheels of your mind, the right side as well as the left side, turn together so they can support each other.        

Return to Self Help 

Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



Click for Dr. Sharma's credentials
Dr. Vijai Sharma
Your Life Coach
By Telephone

Feedback- Let us know how we are doing

Terms and Conditions

Web site designed and maintained by Chanda Taylor