Are you a creative type who uses the right side of your brain? Or an analytical left-brainer? I like to think I can do both - a bit at least. I like science and solving problems. I list pros and cons when making decisions and I'm certainly driven by logic rather than emotions - to the detriment of poor friends whose feelings I have occasionally battered by being entirely oblivious to them. Oops.
I love writing. That's creative isn't it? I garden, love design and dressing up and I'm rather particular about how things look. All 'right brain' stuff maybe?
The idea that our interests and abilities are shaped by activity on one side of the brain more than other is fairly ubiquitous. There are questionnaires, magazine and newspaper articles that help you to figure out your 'brainedness'. You can buy books that tell you 'Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future' and how to help 'Right Brained Children in a Left Brained World'. There are entire Pinterest boards dedicated to Right Brained Teaching (it seems 'left brained' thinking is out of vogue). There are training courses, games, cartoons, even lovely infographics like this one that tell you how your brain side affects your preference for dogs or cats among other things.
But you know what? It's all bunkum.
There is absolutely no evidence from functional MRIs (the imaging that shows activity in the brain as we do different tasks) that some people use one side of their brain more than the other - unless of course you've experienced a brain injury and have damaged one side - or indeed had it removed entirely. There are some interesting reported cases of people, including children who have had one side of their brain removed and yet they continue to function effectively.
It's true that the brain is split into two parts or hemispheres and that things like speech emanate from the left side for most right handed people whereas the right side is generally used for spatial tasks, recognising visual images and music processing but we all we need and use both sides of the brain together to do most tasks. Even the most simple day to day activity is enormously complex in terms of brain activity with networks engaged and electrical signals zigzagging backwards and forwards across both sides.
So why do we get so excited about this left brain, right brain idea?
People are different. Some of us are wired up to think analytically - looking for facts, links, supporting evidence. Others are wired up to think more creatively, jumping from big idea to big idea. Some of us can do both. There are people who are very focused on the visual world and others who like numbers. Some like opera, others like sport. Some like both. People are extraordinarily complex in the way we think, behave, and feel and there are no two of us who are alike. That's what makes us so interesting.
I think saying that I'm 'left brained' or 'right brained' appeals to us because it's a way to make something as complicated as a person a little more simple. Maybe it helps us to understand ourselves a little better and how and why we might be different to others? I'm a big fan of self awareness; of knowing who we are, our strengths, our values, our interests and why we operate the way we do but I don't want to be distilled down into one side of an infographic, no matter how nice it looks. So I say, 'Use both sides of your brain and go forth and be the wonderfully complex and individual person that you are!'