See Neuromyths in Education, Part I: Introduction for an overview and definitions.
What’s the myth?
- That the left brain is realistic, analytical, practical, organized, systematic, and logical, and the right brain is intuitive, creative, passionate, sensual, tasteful, colorful, vivid, and poetic.
- That people have a dominant brain hemisphere; they are left-brained or right-brained and are more analytical or creative as a direct result.
- That exercises can be done to integrate the two brain hemispheres.
What’s the reality?
What’s the evidence?
In an fMRI study of more than 1000 brains, researchers found
[O]ur data are not consistent with a whole-brain phenotype of greater “left-brained” or greater “right-brained” network strength across individuals.
Why does the myth persist?
- Many of myths about left/right “brainedness” arose from findings about split-brain patients—patients whose link between the left and right hemispheres had been severed—that have been inappropriately applied to the general population.
- Studies with negative or null results are far less likely to be published than studies with positive or significant results . This publication bias has contributed to the longevity and durability of various neuromyths.
- See also
- Gazzaniga, Michael S. “The split brain revisited.” Scientific American 279, no. 1 (1998): 50-55.
- Weisberg, Deena Skolnick, Frank C. Keil, Joshua Goodstein, Elizabeth Rawson, and Jeremy R. Gray. “The seductive allure of neuroscience explanations.” Journal of cognitive neuroscience 20, no. 3 (2008): 470-477.
- When teaching about neuroanatomy and brain lateralization, be aware that you’re working against some long-held and deeply entrenched myths.
- During exhibit/program development, aim to provide experiences that appeal to a range of visitors along many dimensions of preference and ability—no checking boxes for having met the needs of “left-brained” and “right-brained” visitors. (And the same goes for VAK!)
Learning sciences in museums
On a related note, here’s some of my favorite research about what does work in informal environments:
- Fostering Active Prolonged Engagement
- EDGE: Exhibit Designs for Girls’ Engagement
- Family Learning in Museums: The PISEC Perspective
- The Multisensory Museum: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on Touch, Sound, Smell, Memory, and Space
What are your favorites?