Monday, October 21, 2013

Brain Drain

            I’m upset. For years I’ve relied on perfectly good scientific evidence to explain my difficulty with math, to excuse my inability to strategize successful chess moves, to support my claim I’m a “word” and not a “numbers” person. Now it appears that the evidence I’ve relied on is neither good nor scientific. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal  (Kosslyn and Miller 10/19-20/13) reveals that the old left-brain/right-brain theory is bogus—nothing more than psycho-babble.
            How can this be? The theory makes so much sense. I mean, all you have to do to prove its veracity is point to the geek who can build a computer out of tin foil and old television antennas but doesn’t know he shouldn't wear black socks with sandals. And how about the artist who can create a museum-worthy masterpiece but can’t navigate his way through the grocery store aisles?
            And if this evidence right before our eyes every single day isn’t enough, there is the academic community paying homage to the left/right-brain claim. As a former teacher, I’ve lost track of the 
Remember the 1990s movie Soap Dish?
Well, all these brain theories are giving
me "brain fever."
number of workshops I attended that divided students into the “intuitive” and the “logical” and offered tactics to bridge those brain gaps. Surely, experts entrusted with the education of our young can’t be wrong!!!
            So if the whole left/right-brain paradigm is unsupported, how has it gained such a stronghold? The WSJ article gave a lot of facts, statistics, and logical explanations about how that happened, but I couldn’t understand them. So I’m going to skip to the part that tells how our brains really work and give my intuitive interpretation.
            If at this point you are reluctant to embrace yet another brain theory, let me put your mind at ease. The top/bottom-brain approach—known as “the theory of cognitive modes”—is built on “decades of unimpeachable research.” Although that research was conducted over fifty years ago, we’re just now hearing about it because it has “largely remained inside scientific circles.” In other words, they kept it a secret until now. Why? The article didn’t say. You’ll have to ask those inside the circles.
            What I understand, though, is that our gray matter is indeed divided—but between top and bottom rather than right and left. Everyone has the same amount of useable brain available to him, but his “mode” depends on whether or not he optimizes both halves of it. I interpret this as if you’re not wildly successful, it’s because you’re a slacker who isn’t using your entire brain to its optimal benefit. The article claims that no one mode is better than another, but come on. I might not be inside any scientific circles, but even I can decipher that a “Mover”—whose top- and bottom-brain systems are both “highly utilized in optional ways”—has it all over the “Adapter”—who basically coasts along using as little brain matter as possible. The remaining modes of “Perceiver” and “Stimulator,” you might have guessed, use their top and bottom brains to varying degrees between the other two modes.
            If you don’t perceive yourself as a Mover, don’t feel bad. The article states that “Each [mode] is useful in different circumstances.” You might be a slacker Adapter, but you can still be “useful.” You can do things like run errands or answer the phone for the high-powered Mover. There. I knew that would make you feel better. At least until the next theory comes along.                 


  1. Sheesh! What a paradigm! My brain hurts. Call me a slacker.

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    1. Martha, I'm pretty sure I belong in that Adapter (slacker) category, too. But not to worry. At least we're "useful"! :-)

  3. I'm relieved to know I'm in slacker category. Explains so many things about me...