We’ve all heard it before: an individual’s personality or thinking style is either right-brained or left-brained.
A right-brained person is said to be creative, intuitive and more likely to describe the world around them qualitatively. In contrast, left-brained individuals are analytical and embrace logical and more quantitative explanations for their day-to-day experiences.
However, study after study has debunked the belief that different “types” of thinking occur in specific areas of the brain. In fact, according to Dr. Robert Shmerling, a faculty editor at Harvard Health Publishing, if someone conducted a CT scan, MRI scan or even an autopsy on the brain of a mathematician and the brain of an artist, there would be little difference in the two samples. Shmerling goes on to suggest that if these same procedures were conducted 1,000 times, “it’s unlikely that any clear pattern or difference in brain structure would emerge.”
Transitioning from a fixed to a growth mindset
While it is true that people have personal preferences for different subjects and areas of specialization, continued research that debunks the left vs. right brain myth continues to suggest that these differences are not physiological. In other words, studies continue to show that our brains are not a certain “type.” Rather, as Carol Dweck argues in her pioneering research on growth mindsets, we can change and improve in whatever we choose to invest time and focus on.
For parents and educators struggling to engage children who might not naturally gravitate toward STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, these findings are good news. While it is of course completely natural for students to have preferences in what they’re interested in, these tastes are not set in stone. Instead, by promoting active learning techniques that embrace hands-on experiences, parents and educators can help students to see the relevance of STEM in their own lives.
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