Most of us have been told that we’re either left or right brain thinkers. There’s a common view in mainstream culture that all human beings lean toward one of these two hemispheres over the other. Right brain thinkers are said to be creative, abstract and theoretical. On the other hand, left brain thinkers are seen as objective, scientific and analytical.
Of course, it’s undeniable that some of us are proficient in numbers, formulas and equations. Others are talented musicians, artists and writers. For instance, while you might prefer a linear spreadsheet, I might be drawn to a surrealist canvas.
But is this predetermined by a specific cranial region? Is the theory of left or right brain dominance accurate? Or do other influences shape where our unique brilliance lies and how we experience the world at large? To help answer this question, let’s dive into psychology—after all, science has our back!
What Is the Left Brain and Right Brain Dominance Theory?
The basis of this notion is that each hemisphere of the brain controls a different form of reasoning. The right half is believed to regulate intuition and creative awareness, while the left half is believed to reinforce logic and rational judgment.
Research states that, when interconnected, these two sides harmoniously join forces to create the full-spectrum of cognitive function. This balance is called brain lateralization. It enables us to communicate, socially interact, process information, feel emotions and bodily sensations, and adapt to our environments. In other words, brain lateralization is the reason we can think flexibly on our feet and react with agile decisions.
From a psychological standpoint, all of this checks out. Each part of the brain is responsible for certain mechanisms which, together, build a cohesive neural framework. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean one hemisphere is dominant.
The brain is strongest when both halves are cross-laterally (equal on each side) activated to increase learning outcomes. So the idea that we gravitate toward one particular hemisphere is what scientists call a “neuromyth.” Therefore, labeling ourselves as either left or right brained can deter us from accessing what the entire brain has to offer.
Tapping into Our Brain Capacity as a Whole
Who says that a logical mind can’t also have a conceptual streak, or that an artist can’t also become fluent in math? Humans are intricate and multi-dimensional, so it stands to reason that how our brains function is just as complex. It’s not binary—it’s nuanced.
We can interpret concrete numbers and imagine abstract colors. We tend to be detail-oriented visionaries, analytical empaths, intuitive critical thinkers or organized eccentrics. No single identifier can accurately reflect all that we are, and no single brain hemisphere can dictate where all our proficiencies stem from.
Of course, we’re bound to be inherently stronger in certain areas, but this doesn’t mean we have to be resigned to permanent weakness in other areas. This is the distinction between a growth mindset versus a fixed one. Neuroscience proves that a belief in our own capacity to learn and improve (growth mindset) is a more sustainable predictor of achievement than natural but finite intelligence (fixed mindset).
The brain is a muscle that can be toned with mental exercise and stimulation. It’s not about which region is dominant—it’s about how much curiosity and confidence we can muster to explore all the facets of what this muscle can do. There is a profound synergism in interconnection, so why limit ourselves to the right or left when these two halves make such a powerful, dynamic, miraculous whole?