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|
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?
A 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.”