Friday, February 24, 2012

The Culture Blogs: Left Brain vs Right Brain

“I am the left brain.  I am dependent on denotative language and abstraction.  I yield clarity and power to manipulate things that are known, fixed, static, isolated, decontextualized, explicit, general in nature, but ultimately lifeless.  I love the familiar.  Principles.  Segregation.  I am black and white.  I am organized reality.  I am your world and your views.    Morals.  Hatred.  Values.  Love.  I am the rational mind.”


“I am the right brain.  I yield a world of changing, evolving, interconnected, implicit, incarnate, living beings within the context of the lived world.  I am Diversity.  An open mind.  Connection.  Intertextuality.  I am so many sounds you can't comprehend them all.  So many colors you can't tell where one ends and the next begins.  And more tastes than you can bear to examine.  I am boundless imagination.  I am everything and everyone.  Art.  Mathematics.  Music.  Noise.  Infinity.  I am the intuitive mind.”

You've probably seen this picture before.  If so you are likely saying that's not what the captions beside the picture say.  And you would be right.  But when I saw this picture I immediately decided to do a little bit of research on the matter.  What I found completely blew me away.  I discovered this RSA Animate on the Divided Brain and it sparked all sorts of new ideas for me.  From why we tend to polarize in politics, religions, and in education.  It has all to do with how our brains work and the society we have developed around ourselves.

It's kinda long, but I promise its worth it!

For those of you who didn’t watch it, I’ll give ya a short recap.  Basically it shares about how we have lost sight of what the mind actually does for us.  It is entirely designed to inhibit information from one side to the other so that we can correctly interpret it.  And as we have grown as a society we have begun to focus more on the power of the left side of the brain, the rational side as opposed to the intuitive side, and we effects of that in our society are interesting.

Here’s three examples of this culture that can be used in your writing:

1. Left Brain thinking in Politics

In politics there is a great deal of hero worship and demonizing that goes on.  I see it among my friends, neighbors, and those people that I try to ignore sometimes.  President Obama is a great example of these types of thoughts.  Those who support Obama think that he is amazing and that he has been good for America.  On the other hand those who don’t support him tend to say everything he has done has been bad, and there are even those who go as far as to call him the Anti-Christ.

Now is one end the truth or the other?  Personal opinion is that he’s probably somewhere in the middle.  But if you want to be able to write fiction that is balanced and referential to our current day, you wouldn’t go wrong by using this in your political climate. 

2. Left Brain thinking in War

As a soldier allow me to tell you that this is a crucial matter for a soldier.  I was trained to seek out and destroy the enemy back in basic training.  There were times I said kill as I performed an attack so much that I hated what I was doing.  But as a soldier I cannot have right brain thinking on the battlefield about the enemy’s family: their spouse, children, and pets.  I cannot afford to humanize them, or else when it comes down life or death I might hesitate.  And then the person dead is me.

However encompassing right brain thinking into the mourning process afterwards I think is important.  Because for me it forces me to recognize the importance of human life, and how people can be on opposite sides of a conflict and still fighting for the same basic values: Government, Freedom, Family, and Religion.

3. Left Brain thinking in Education

Math is the most hated class in high school and university classes hands down.  Often folks say that Math Teachers can’t teach.  Others say Math is useless.  And the iron gates of the Left Brain shut off to Math because it is hard.

Now I’m okay at Math, not great.  But I think it is because I approach it from the perspective of a Right Brained person.  Math is a language like Spanish, Russian, or German.  And so it requires me to study like it is a language.  Meaning I have to do study groups, find applications in everyday life, and spend copious amounts of time learning it.  I suffered from the Left Brain thinking for years before I realized that.  I passed Math once I discovered that.

If you spend some time thinking about it, I’m sure there are some plots or subplots to a novel you can use this concept in.  Or perhaps you can apply it to your own life, like I did to be able to get through my Math courses.  Either way using both sides of our brain to process what we are given each day is crucial to a correct understanding of the world around us.

Think about what issues you are decided on, and then spend time listening to the arguments of the other side.  Allow both sides of your brain a chance to use everything they have.  You may stay right where you are in your opinion, but you may experience a revolution of the mind where you discover not that you are wrong, but that there are other opinions that are just as valid and right as your own.

As we are drawing close to the end of February I would love for everyone who visits my blog to leave a comment.  For every person that comments on my blog this month I am putting an entry into a hat for an opportunity to win a copy of N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.  I plan on giving three of these away.  It was nominated last year for both a Hugo and a Nebula award.  And it has been a fascinating read thus far.

That’s all for now folks, my name is Jayrod Garrett and I am the First OG.  How do you use both your rational and intuitive minds together?


  1. Wow! This is an awesome post Jayrod! I'm still trying to process it all. So if we're the type of person that uses mainly our right brain, why is that? I wonder what influences why some of us are more right brained and others are more left brained. Loved the video! Fascinating!

    1. Thank you so much Ingrid! I have no answers to the questions at this point, that's part of my journey, but to have you with me as we all move towards the answers is a joy.

  2. I had the opposite problem with math. I'm right-brained and math required me to think logically and sequentially, which was a very difficult transition to make. What was particularly discouraging in an algebra class was how much time and effort I spent trying to learn the material. I'd check the back of the book and see I got the answers right, and then I'd get my paper back and I'd gotten them all wrong! I probably spent more time than anyone else trying to learn the material, and it still resulted in a poor grade.

    1. Linda, I totally understand that! Math is difficult for most people. Whether you are right brained or left brained. Thanks for commenting. :D


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