by Brad C. Davis, Mercury Learning Systems LLC
Interest in right and left brain learning began to attract widespread attention after Dr. Roger Sperry of the California Institute of Technology won the Nobel Prize for his work on the functions of the brain's hemispheres. Since then, right/left brain theory has been utilized in areas such as specialized education, business models and even medical practices.
Below is a comprehensive chart with descriptions of how we learn and experience life through our right and left brain functions. You'll discover things about yourself you may have never known before!
|The Left Brain||The Right Brain|
|"Turns data from the external world into language. This requires sequential processing wherein data is processed one bit at a time. This is time consuming."* Example: When I began typing this left/right brain list, I had to verbalize the information in my mind and logically decide how best to present it. Often, we can see in our mind what we want to say (right brain), but it can become difficult to put those thoughts down on paper (left brain).||Processes information very quickly as images through our olfactory, emotional, auditory, taste and/or tactile senses* Example: When I started thinking about preparing this page of information, all that I know about left and right brain learning flooded through my mind in microseconds in the form of images and many other sensory memories. The challange was putting it in a form you can understand, which is a left brain function.|
|"Continuously dumps old information to make room for new."* Example: Unless I "feel" or "see" what my wife asks me to do, I often forget and need several reminders. Remember the saying, "In one ear and out the other"? If we don't attach one or more of our senses (right brain) to information we want to remember, it can can slip from our mind.||Stores every memory*. Whatever you've experienced: Seen, smelled, felt, heard, tasted, etc. is stored in the cells of your brain, which can be accessed. It's a super-recorder that doesn't require conscious effort. In fact, conscious effort interfers with this type of memory aquisition. Read this article for more.|
|"Prefers study notes of written lines of text."** Common note taking.||"Likes a pictorial or diagrammatic format when taking notes during study."** A great example of pictorial note taking is mind mapping. Read our article about mind mapping here.|
|We think in logical ways. Take this quiz: You have a blue ball, red ball and yellow ball sitting in front you. You need to pick up two of them. But, if you pick up the blue ball, you can't pick up the red ball. If you pick up the red ball you can't pick up the yellow. So, which two balls can you pick up? To solve this, you'll need to access your logical left brain functions.||We think intuitively. Example: One hot summer day, someone I know was a passenger in a car that was travelling with the windows down. As they pulled up to a stop sign, she immediately got the prompting (right brain) to roll up her window. So, not seeing the danger that was just about to happen, she followed her intuition for no apparent logical (left brain) reason. Just after her window was closed, three kids appeared out of nowhere and threw several tomatoes, smashing against her window. She was startled but realized what would have happened had she not acted on her intuition. For more about how intuition works, read our article here.|
|Is verbal. Example: A city judge I know in Philidelphia has the gift of telling stories in great detail and can talk for hours on end - very entertaining and educational. He has a solid grasp of left brain verbal communication skills - putting thoughts and experiences to speech in a logical sequence.||Is visual. Example: I've had a few conversations with my friend's teenage son. He's always had great difficulty talking in full sentences to describe anything. As I observe him, I can tell he clearly sees in his mind exactly what he's attempting to communicate as he looks off into space. I believe his inability to clearly communicate is due to his verbal (left brain) skills not being developed. If you've ever seen someone staring off somewhere when talking, chances are they are seeing what they are talking about in their mind’s eye.|
|Is rational. Example: One night our son had sharp pains in his stomach that didn't seem to subside so we took him to the hospital. For some reason I didn't feel any panic or concern. My thinking was, "There's no use freaking out. That won't help him through the pain." He turned out ok - only had some gas stuck in his intestines.||Is non-rational. Continuing the story from the "rational" left brain column: My wife got very upset and concerned about our son in pain. It seems her motherly emotions took over and she couldn't calm down until we found out he was really fine and just had some gas. If our rational left brain is not in balance with our right brain in certain situations, we can become irrational and make wrong decisions or carry out wrong actions.|
|Is analytical. Example: When I put together kit furniture, I have to follow the directions step-by-step and when I don't, I often can't finish the project because I skipped a step and have to take apart sections and start over.||Is synthetic. Example: In the 1400's, Leonardo da Vinci imaged in his mind inventions like the helicopter and single span bridge, which he illustrated in detail. It was not until modern times that these marvels were made physical. Also, sci-fi writers have visionary right brain thought. They don't allow their logical left brain to tell them what they're thinking is impossible.|
|Has numbering skills. Know any accountants? Left brain all the way!||Has computer-like math calculation abilities. Example: Sometimes I can add, subtract, multiply or divide large numbers together without thinking. The answer just pops into my mind. Many times, doubting the instant answer, I check with a calculator only to find my intuitive answer is always correct. For more info, read my article about computer-like math calculation.|
|Is logical and conscious. Takes in information slowly. Presenting information slowly and repeatedly stimulates the left-brain but left brain memory is more short term.||Is capable of taking in information quickly. Presenting large amounts of information at a fast pace ignites the right brain, storing it all at the subconscious level. Bringing this information out to our conscious (left brain) mind takes strong connections between the right and left brain functions. Read my articles: Rapid Flashing Learning Method, and Intuition and Learning.|
|Is capable of scanning book pages. Most "speed reading" courses I've seen train us to scan pages in blocks in which the subject is committed to memory. This does work but not at nearly as well as learning mass memory acquisition, a right brain function.||We're capable of speed-reading. When properly trained, we are "able to take 'snapshots' of pages like a camera, store them in the subconscious mind then instantly retrieve the information from each page in the form of images."* This method is taught at the Shichida Child Academies. We carry eye-tracking speed reading training cards, games and software which help children develop stronger eye-tracking and memory abilities used for this type of reading method.|
|Is practical. Left brain functions generally work well under stress.||Is emotional. Works well when fully relaxed.|
|We are capable of perfect pitch and musical aptitude. Watch a professional orchestra sometime. Thanks to their right brains in tune with each other, they all merge their instruments together with perfection. Read my article: Developing Perfect Pitch and Musical Aptitude.|
|We're able to acquire multiple languages. Speech patterns, rhythm, frequencies, tonal sounds, pitch and accents are absorbed and expressed naturally. Example: I know a family of five whose mother is Swedish and the father is American. At home, they both speak in their native languages. Just by speaking both Swedish and English daily, all five of their children can speak these languages fluently at any given time without any confusion or mixing of languages. See my article: Learning a Foreign Language Faster.|
*Dr. Makoto Shichida, President of Shichida Child Academies, Japan. **Professor Chen Lung-an, Director of the Creative Thinking Educational Center, Taiwan.
Our Left/Right Brain Functions Are Very Different
As you've read the chart above, you may have been thinking how opposite our left and right brain functions seem. How can we think straight when one side seems so much different than the other? Read Leonid Ponomerev's answer to this question from his book, "In Quest of the Quantum:"
"You can devote yourself completely to science (left brain) or live exclusively in your art (right brain). Both points of view are equally valid, but, taken separately, are incomplete. The backbone of science is logic and experiment. The basis of art is intuition and insight. But the art of ballet requires mathematical accuracy and, as Pushkin wrote, 'Inspiration in geometry is just as necessary as in poetry.' They complement rather than contradict each other.
True science is akin to art, in the same way as real art always includes elements of science. They reflect different, complementary aspects of human experience and give us a complete idea of the world only when taken together...."