Right Brained People in a Left Brained World
Lionel Van Deerlin Professor of Communications and Public Policy,
San Diego State
Posted: February 10, 2011 10:45 PM
You know who they are. You have probably even had them home to dinner. But they are different aren’t they?
I am of course, talking about the right-brained people.
Suite 101, a web site devoted to so-called right-brained thinkers, says: “Right brains don’t explain what they feel well and are misunderstood. They think of one thing, and say another because their brain has already moved on to another thought.”
Artists, or people who have been trained in the arts, are usually what we call “right brained.”
Not that it is good or bad but the right hemisphere of the brain is involved, according to Wikipedia, in “processing of visual and audio logical stimuli, spatial manipulation, facial perception, and artistic ability’ and ‘there is some evidence that the right hemisphere is more involved in processing novel situations, while the left hemisphere is most involved when routine or well rehearsed processing is called for.”
Dr. Jordan Shlain, son of the well know brain surgeon and author Dr. Leonard Shlain, put it this way:
“In his first book, Art and Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time and Light, (my father) posited that the right brain describes the world through the medium of art while the left brain describes the same world using science as its medium. Furthermore, the right brain is evolving slightly ahead of the left brain, such that major shifts in artistic movements precede corresponding discoveries in physics”.
While Dan Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, says we need more right brainers, in truth America’s success will come from nurturing whole brained people — people with both hemispheres working in tandem — what author, and educator Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi calls FLOW… a “mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.”
Clearly we are entering the age of the new brain where new technologies like genetic mapping and imaging technology reveal to us for the first time the mysterious secrets hidden within our skulls. The whole field of neuroscience, particularly in the field of the art and education, has grown tremendously.
Dr. Richard Restak, in Mozart’s Brain and the Fighter Pilot: Unleashing Your Brain’s Potential, uses the words “plastic” and “malleable” to describe the brain. He believes that we can be creative by acquiring the right series of “portfolios”; that we can “preselect the kind of brain (we) will have by choosing richly valued experiences.” In short, he and many neuroscientists are beginning to say, we all can be creative, and in other words we can all nurture the whole brain in us and find the FLOW.
But we need to get the left-brain thinkers to agree. As Ian McGilchrist, a noted neuroscientist, pointed out in a commentary for The Wall Street Journal,
“There is an inevitable rise in bureaucracy, with paper replacing people, and experience increasingly virtualized. In going all out for what we believe will be our own happiness, we exploit the world and see ourselves as alien to it, rather than seeing that our happiness depends on being part of it, and therefore on helping it to thrive. This is the world of the left hemisphere, ever keen on control”.
As McGilchrist argues, this is extremely sad as the world is clearly going in the wrong direction. “This is something the right hemisphere alone understands, since it is the ground of empathy and interconnectedness, where the left hemisphere is concerned with manipulation and sees the world atomistically.”
Most analysts studying the new global economy agree that the growing “creative and innovative” economy represents America’s salvation; indeed one could say, the whole human race.
We need now to grow the next generation of whole brained workers to save America and the world too.
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