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University High School

Opinion: People shouldn’t be labeled as left or right-brained

As you might already know, our brains have two halves, the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere. It is one of the responsibilities of the brain to process the sensory information we get exposed to all day every day. But the important part is that these two hemispheres differ in the way they process this information.

In reference to a scientific article published by the University of Washington, the dominant functions of these hemispheres can be put in a list below.

Left Hemisphere:

  • Logic
  • Math
  • Reasoning
  • Analyzing
  • Seeing the bigger picture

Right Hemisphere:

  • Music, art
  • Intuitive
  • Spatial abilities
  • Visual imagery
  • Examining details

As you can see, both ways of processing are highly important abilities for us to have and they also determine our perspective on life and what we bring to the table.

But there’s one issue; the knowledge of the distinguishing aspects of the hemispheres might result in people labeling themselves or each other based on their skills or interests. People might try labeling a person as sharply “a Left-Brained person” simply because (s)he studies Finance or Engineering instead of Arts. According to recent studies done by Harvard, these conclusions are misleading, inaccurate and that people can’t be typed simply as “Right-Brained” or “Left-Brained.”

Think about it, regardless of our professions or interests, aren’t we all able to reason or identify what behavior is right and what’s wrong in a simple situation, or to do maths, form correct sentences, learn to play an instrument?

The answer’s yes. In fact, these two hemispheres of our brain work together, simultaneously in every individual. Kara D. Federmeier, a leading cognitive neuroscientist and professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, put it this way in her interview with NPR on the relationship of the hemispheres.

“Processing within each hemisphere relies on a rich, dense network of connections…Dividing up tasks and allowing the hemispheres to work semi-independently and take different approaches to the same problem seems to be a good strategy for the brain,” Federmeier told NPR.

As can be inferred from her interview, this strategy not only brings color to our lives by ensuring enriched perspectives, but it also prevents the brain from getting overwhelmed by sensory stimulus and information.

Supported by the AP (Advanced Placement) Introduction to Psychology textbook, one hemisphere of the brain is likely to be more heavily in control of some tasks, whereas the other is more heavily in control of some other tasks.

Now through this knowledge, we can conclude that a student studying Finance is leaning towards her/his left hemisphere more than a Creative Writing student does. However, this is no reason to strictly separate and distinguish these two because as we stated before, the two work together.

Some examples the textbook provides for how the two hemispheres work together include solving a problem of any sort: The left hemisphere is responsible for finding a logical solution and the right hemisphere justifies the accuracy of the solution by doing estimations and contrasts. Similarly, when writing, the left half is responsible for the context and tone of the writing whereas the right half checks the grammar and the correct word use.

Therefore, processing doesn’t happen as if it’s a high school group assignment: there’s no passing the duty to the smartie of the group and getting away with it. Here instead, both group members have their own relevant contributions on each and every task. Their contributions just vary in quantity.

I would guess a majority of us either still believe in this myth that the two halves work solo and independently, or have believed in it at some point in their lives. I know I did.

I used to classify myself as “Right-Brained” and doing so was genuinely relieving for me. I remember joyfully going around the house thinking to myself that since I’m not as analytical but instead, more intuitive and creative, that must explain why I’m bad at Physics or not as good at Maths.

I thought I was born to be a certain type of thinker out of two distinct options. I was hyped by the thought of getting rid of Physics and never having to worry about it anymore but in reality, it just demanded a little more time and studying.

Turned out my initial mentality was wrong and Physics haunted me until I was finally able to drop it.

To sum up, the right and left hemispheres of the brain are collaborative with their tasks of processing information. Due to this collaboration, they contribute multiple vital perspectives on the matter. So labeling yourself distinctly as one is not only an incorrect approach but it is also prone to harm you if you are to use it as an excuse to avoid responsibilities.

It sounds like my relationship with Physics.