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According to Right Brain

Gray Matter

What does it mean to be right-brain?
Right-brain and Left-brain thinking - which one are you?
Published on February 1, 2011 : 31 comments

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I’m not an expert, but I have heard over the years that artist types are “right-brain” thinkers. Hence the title of my monthly column—According to Right Brain. Even though I haven’t peeked under the hood, I am certain I have only one brain in there. So what does it mean to be right-brain?

American psychologist Roger W. Sperry discovered in the late 1960s that our gray matter has two very different ways of thinking.

  • The right brain (or right hemisphere) is visual and processes information intuitively as a big picture first, and then looks at detail. It controls the left side of our bodies.
  • The left brain (or left hemisphere) is verbal and analytical, looking at the pieces first to put it together as a whole. It controls the right side of our bodies.

Sperry won a Nobel Prize for this original premise.

OK…so I am a right handed artist! I think it is safe to say that our gray matter isn’t so black and white.

If you are wondering if you lean toward being left- or right-brain dominant, this video of a woman spinning will give you  a quick answer. See if you can make her switch directions.

 

What Are Characteristics of Left-Brain and Right-Brain Thinking?

Left (Rational) Right (Intuitive)
Responds to verbal instructions Responds to demonstrated instructions
Problem-solves logically Problem-solves with hunches
Looks at differences Looks at similarities
Is planned and structured Is fluid and spontaneous
Prefers established, certain information Prefers elusive, uncertain information
Prefers talking and writing Prefers drawing and manipulating objects
Prefers multiple-choice tests Prefers open-ended questions
Controls feelings Free with feelings
Prefers ranked authority structures Prefers collegial authority structures

  Source: http://www.web-us.com/brain/right_left_brain_characteristics.htm

Is One Side Better Than the Other?

Heck no. We use both all the time. Here is an example. I can picture what my red VW bug looks like in my mind or where the furniture is in my living room (right brain). I can add 4 + 4 (left brain). The name of the thing I am typing on is a keyboard (left brain).

Do You Feel You Are Incapable of Something Like Drawing?

Drawing on the right side of your brainA lot of people tell me they could never draw—that they can only draw stick figures. If you want to test yourself, check out this classic book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. She offers simple techniques by which you can access the right side of the brain when drawing. In other words, she helps you draw what you see, not what you know. Believe me, if I can learn algebra (geometry was a lot easier for me), you can learn to draw—if you want to.

There are several quizzes available online to help you figure out if you are a right- or left-brainer. Here’s a sample one you can try. (You’ll need a pen or pencil to record your answers.)

And lastly, here’s one more remarkable video - a TED talk by neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor - who actually experienced a massive stroke…and was able to monitor her brain functions as they shut down one by one. In the video she makes interesting observations about the 2 halves of the brain.

Comment below. I really want to know what you “think.”

AnnDbugzAnn Troe (@AnnieDoodlebugz) is graphic designer and illustrator. http://AnnGraphics.com http://AnniesDoodlebugz.com

Comments

Matt (not verified) says:

February 1, 2011 : 3 years 28 weeks ago

Matt's picture

Ann, I think the video example you provided is excellent. I viewed the dancer as rotating counter-clockwise, which I guess means I use more of my left brain. I even tried doing mental math but couldn’t make myself see the rotation in the opposite direction. You know what though? I’m actually left-handed. This leaves me really thinking about how much I’m actually in my “right brain”, lol!

SNBaird says:

February 1, 2011 : 3 years 28 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

I love, love, love this post, Ann! I’m dying to hear what other people saw in the video. The dancer very obviously spun clockwise for me, and about 3/4 of the way through the video I somehow managed to get her to spin the opposite direction, but she flipped back.

You make great points about how we utilize both sides of our brain, and while I agree that we can always be working to strengthen our brain flexibility, I have to say… I still can’t draw! :)

Thanks, as always, for making me think on both sides of my brain!!

Kathy Arends (not verified) says:

February 1, 2011 : 3 years 28 weeks ago

Kathy Arends's picture

Great article Ann. You always get me to think! :) For some unknown reason, I got the girl to spin both directions a couple of times. Have no idea how I did that! lol

AnnDbugz says:

February 1, 2011 : 3 years 28 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Matt!
Good to meet a fellow “opposite” (your left handed and left brain, I’m right handed and right brain) Maybe if the experts tested us they would find we are really using both sides of our brains a lot. It would be cool if we could figure out where the spinning woman video originated from.

Susan! - I like that we can have such a great time discussing an issue! One of the things I like best about you. It is fun to make the spinning woman flip the other direction AND can drive me nuts trying to figure out how I do that! For me, thinking of a simple math problem works sometimes since I see her in the “right brain direction” automatically ;-)

Kathy! Thanks for checking out my article ;-D No surprise to me you can get her to flip back and forth… I have seen you be totally deep in conversation on the golf course and then sink a really long putt.

You all are wonderful for leaving your comments. Can’t wait to see what others will say.
 Ann

not OK brother (not verified) says:

February 2, 2011 : 3 years 28 weeks ago

not OK brother's picture

The strangest thing happened while I was trying to get her to spin counter clockwise.. I giant pole appeared! I wonder what brain made that happen?

AnnDbugz says:

February 2, 2011 : 3 years 28 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Hey Everybody!
I am getting some great emails from all of you! I just want to mention that it is not big deal is you can’t get her to flip directions…. your alive - your using both sides of your beautiful brain!

OK Brother (not verified) says:

February 2, 2011 : 3 years 28 weeks ago

OK Brother's picture

Great article! Of course, my left brain required me to step through your article and attached quizzes and videos in the order they are presented. Very interesting. This will come as no surprise to you, but I did not score very many points on the left/right quiz. I’m guessing that it may take me quite a while (if ever) to get the spinning woman to go clockwise.

OK, I’ve spent exactly 27 minutes on this. I must get back on task for the day.

BTW - I like your new website.

AnnDbugz says:

February 2, 2011 : 3 years 28 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

OK Brother,
Just Big hugs for the support! AND your left brain is amazing ;-D

AnnDbugz says:

February 2, 2011 : 3 years 28 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

NOT OK brother,
I appreciate you keeping your comments clean!
 Hah!

Jo M. Lynch (not verified) says:

February 2, 2011 : 3 years 28 weeks ago

Jo M. Lynch's picture

Hi Ann, As always you bring a wonderful subject to the table with great references. I did all of the fun stuff in the article. Of course I saw the gal going clockwise… too weird how some of us see it one way and others another way… I can’t see how people can see it going the other way. Her right arm is extended and she’s going clockwise. I was able to make her switch directions only once and only for a few seconds.. then she went back. On the test, I scored 19 out of 21… More of the Right Brained stuff… and to top everything off, I adored the video. My best friend where I live has been living with a hubby who had a hemorrhagic stroke last May, similar to the lady in the video. I found the video fascinating… I shared the article with her too. Fascinating subject to me.. the way the mind works is always a curiosity… Thanks for all of the reference material… You are the BEST!!!!!!

Keep writing… Off to spread the word…. :)

Jo ~ http://whimzicals.com

AnnDbugz says:

February 2, 2011 : 3 years 28 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Jo,
LOADS of gratitude for sharing my article!
I didn’t score quite as high as you on the test - I have a a little more left brain stuff going on.
Would be fun to have an expert give us feed back.

Georgie (not verified) says:

February 8, 2011 : 3 years 27 weeks ago

Georgie's picture

Great post. No wonder I’m crazy. The girl flip-flopped from clockwise to counter clockwise with me. I guess my left brain is competing with my right brain. Very interesting.

AnnDbugz says:

February 8, 2011 : 3 years 27 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

That sounds cool! I can get her to flop, but I have to “think about it”.
It is fun how we are all a bit different.
THANKS for reading!

Georgie says:

February 8, 2011 : 3 years 27 weeks ago

Georgie's picture

I had to think about it to get her to go counterclockwise the first time. After that she flip flopped on her own.

AnnDbugz says:

February 8, 2011 : 3 years 27 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Georgie
She always starts out clockwise for me.

I have been having such fun with the comments I get here, on Twitter and through email.
Share this with your friends and see which way their brains “lean”.

Your input is fantastic! ;-D

Georgie says:

February 8, 2011 : 3 years 27 weeks ago

Georgie's picture

I’ll include this link in my next blog post.

AnnDbugz says:

February 8, 2011 : 3 years 27 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Georgie!
THANKS for making my WEEK! ;-D

daphnedel says:

February 16, 2011 : 3 years 26 weeks ago

daphnedel's picture

This is so great! I first saw the dancer spinning counter-clockwise, then it switched, then back again. I started testing it. When I did basic addition in my head the dancer spinned clockwise. When I quoted poetry to myself it’d switch back to counter-clockwise. Amazing to get a little view into how our brains work!

AnnDbugz says:

February 16, 2011 : 3 years 26 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Hi Daphne
So glad you enjoyed the article… I find it VERY fascinating! I have been talking with people - and I have yet to find someone who would be an expert in this field. (As I mentioned before) it would be neat to see what they have to say!

I really appreciate you taking the time to comment. Have a wonderful day!

David the Philomath (not verified) says:

April 18, 2011 : 3 years 17 weeks ago

David the Philomath's picture

I cant understand how someone can see the dancer turning anti clockwise. Very interesting. I believe the left-brain-right-brain notion has been manipulated and has served to be an excuse for people to become lazy. Check out the article I wrote on the subject if you’re interested in my point of view.

The Left-Brain-Right-Brain Misconception:

AnnDbugz says:

April 18, 2011 : 3 years 17 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Hey David!
I suspect I should say that I am not an expert by any means in the matters of the brain. I am a business owner/ graphic designer / illustrator / wife / mom…. you get the idea.

I always see her going counter clock wise at first! then if I look at her foot up in the air… I can get her to switch.

SO Who the heck knows how important that is? - not my point. We all use both sides of our brain. I do know that it is probably not a great idea to suggest that “right brainers” are lazy - Just like suggesting if you are a right-hander, your lazy. Oh wait! How about because I have brown eyes - I am lazy! You get the idea that labels are rarely One-Size-Fits-All.

It is all good and we all “see” things differently - that what makes life fun and interesting in my opinion.

Thanks for reading and your comment!

Texas (not verified) says:

August 30, 2011 : 2 years 50 weeks ago

Texas's picture

Here in Texas people with so called disorder of hearing voices are cured in 3 days without meds. Psychiatry is a hoax. Nami is a joke… Dont listen to this woman.

Danielle (not verified) says:

August 23, 2012 : 1 year 51 weeks ago

Danielle's picture

I think this is REALLY cool. I’m not yet out in the world for a job or career but I LOVE softball and math. The dancer was flipping back adn fort so fast I was getting dizzy!! I have alot of simmalarites with my friends in fact one of them is the one who told me to watch this video and i knew it wasnt like a trick because she couldnt get the dancer to switch directions till the end and mine was fliping all over the place!!

Danielle (not verified) says:

August 23, 2012 : 1 year 51 weeks ago

Danielle's picture

I think this is REALLY cool. I’m not yet out in the world for a job or career but I LOVE softball and math. The dancer was flipping back adn fort so fast I was getting dizzy!! I have alot of simmalarites with my friends in fact one of them is the one who told me to watch this video and i knew it wasnt like a trick because she couldnt get the dancer to switch directions till the end and mine was fliping all over the place!!

AnnDbugz says:

August 23, 2012 : 1 year 51 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Hey Danielle!
So glad you liked the article - It is fun to learn a bit more about ourselves. We all have both sides - some have developed one side more than the other. It would be fun to find more of these “tests”. I would be interested in knowing if anyone has done any studies to see how many of us change which side is dominate over time.

Thanks for you comments!

mikel (not verified) says:

July 31, 2013 : 1 year 2 weeks ago

mikel's picture

this is weird.
i was watching youtube and i came accross to this video.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZMJeQ4yPPk which got me curious because i am/was definitely sure it was counter clockwise. then i googled right or left brain just to understand it better(out of curiosity)and i came across to this page and watched this similar video and it’s clockwise.

Anonymous (not verified) says:

August 14, 2013 : 1 year 6 days ago

Anonymous's picture

You say what it means when she turns one way or the other but you do not say what it means if she keeps switching directions. A friend emailed the spinning girl test from a different location and she kept changing direction. She would turn clockwise two or three times, then she would turn counter clockwise 2 or 3 times. If I tried to keep her turning the same direction, she would switch. So I did a google search to see if I could find more information and found this page. Your girl does the same thing but no mention of what it means when she keeps switching directions.

AnnDbugz says:

August 14, 2013 : 1 year 5 days ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Hi,
As I mentioned in the article I am not an expert at all on brains :-)
I would imagine if you can get her to change directions, it means that you are switching which part of your brain you are using. I can get her to switch which is quite interesting.

Thanks for your comment. :-)

Lisa (not verified) says:

October 24, 2013 : 42 weeks 5 days ago

Lisa's picture

WOW! I watched the video all the way through but couldn’t seem to get it to spin left. Then another video, similar to the one you posted popped up that was longer, and what they did was add reverse shadow effect to give it either left or right spin perspectives. And, believe it or not after that when I watched the original video she was spinning left and I couldn’t seem to get it to spin right again (ha ha ha, go figure).

I always thought I functioned more balanced. I am an artist and a writer, I can be either emotional or stoic, prefer structure in some things and not in others. I first look for similarities, like in puzzles, but after a couple of minutes I immediately start finding the differences, and by the time I am almost finished I am using both simultaneously.

In the first test I took, the only clear answers I could give were to the first: Which is the right-brained, prefer demonstrated instructions: And, I prefer ranked over collegial authority structures. Everything else was evenly split. Heck, I even organize my closet according to color, then shirts, skirts, and pants, and other things like organizing my movie collection can start by release date, later be redone based on the leading man or woman, and then again by genre. I often find myself redoing these things over and over because at one time I prefer it one way, and later I change my mind. I think I need to build a better bridge between the two hemispheres or figure out how to get both sides to work together more proficiently (wow, I just realized I waste a lot of time trying to find the balance between the two, there has got to be a better way).

AnnDbugz says:

October 24, 2013 : 42 weeks 5 days ago

AnnDbugz's picture

HI Lisa :-D
Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to post your comments!

I really think you are on to something! Your very last sentence is spot on. You will use the side of your brain you need, when you need it. No worries :-)

Anonymous (not verified) says:

July 28, 2014 : 3 weeks 1 day ago

Anonymous's picture

You are not “left” or “right”, you are both. There is no one side. This is utter nonsense, and has already been debunked.

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