[Paleopsych] Wired 13.02: Revenge of the Right Brain

Thrst4knw at aol.com Thrst4knw at aol.com
Mon Apr 25 16:43:04 UTC 2005

Ross, there is some confusion between hemisphere specialization (which no one 
familiar with neuroscience can reasonably argue) and the strong 
hemisphericity thesis which says that a particular cerebral hemisphere is neccessary and 
sufficient for a set of important higher level cognitive functions or properties 
such as reasoning, creativity, intelligence, suggestibility, and so on.  

Roger Sperry's remarkable observations on hemisphere specialization led to 
not only advances in neuroscience and deep insights into the higher cognitive 
functions but also a predictable glut of speculations about how some cultures or 
subcultures were only using half of their brain, how the right brain was the 
unique source of creativity and wisdom and how "drawing on the right side of 
the brain" was the secret missing element to Western education.  These things 
were based on a radical version of the strong hemisphericity hypothesis that 
has indeed been widely rejected for good reason.  I think that's what Lynn was 
referring to, and is definitely what I was referring to.  

It took years for educators to come to grips with the fact that hemisphere 
specialization didn't neccessarily mean that they should be replacing academic 
pedagogy wholesale with Zen koans in order to activate the "creative 
hemisphere."  Of course like most misleading ideas it wasn't entirely wrong.  The 
hemispheres are indeed specialized, however they are not individually neccessary and 
sufficient for particular higher cognitive functions, they are used together 
for anything resembling normal thinking and behavior, and education crosses 
their specializations.  The specialization is still of great theoretical interes
t as well, I think.

kind regards,


In a message dated 4/25/2005 11:28:47 AM Eastern Daylight Time, 
ross.buck at uconn.edu writes:
Who has discounted right brain/left brain differences, and on what evidence?  
Anyone with experience with aphasia knows that right brain/left brain 
differences are powerful: language is organized in the left hemisphere in over 90% of 
humans (right or left handedness makes little difference: people are right or 
left footed and eyed as well).  And there is considerable evidence that the 
right hemisphere is associated with emotional expressiveness (facial expression 
and vocal prosody) as well as spatial abilities.  
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