LiveWell: Balance of the Brain


I stared at the question on my laptop screen, wracking my brain for an answer. No, of course I don’t waste my time doing that…or, wait…maybe I do. Frustration and confusion clogged my mind as I wondered how in the world this test could possibly classify all the complexities and intricacies of my brain into one of two categories: right-brained or left-brained.

As I was sorting through my email last week, I came across an advertisement for a “Right-Brained or Left-Brained?” test. I clicked on the link and answered 28 questions about my interests and instincts. At the end, my test concluded that I was left-brained, meaning that I most often solve problems through logic, mathematics, verbal language, and fact-based knowledge, as opposed to creativity, imagination, and visualization.

As a person who engages in the arts (although I’m no Van Gogh), this came as a slight surprise. Yes, I love the objectivity of numbers, but I also have a creative side, as an avid dancer.

My results only made me more curious to see whether my friends were right or left brain-dominant. Just as I expected, many of my peers, whom I considered to be artistically or creatively proficient received “left brain” results, and vice versa.

As I took more and more versions of these tests, I began to think. How can we label people as being right or left-brained, when most of what we do requires both logic and creativity? At first glance, programming, calculus, and chemistry may seem to be exclusively “left-brained” subjects, with only black and white reasoning. However, when we look deeper, we can see that creativity and imagination are involved in finding the most effective algorithm to code for a program or the most efficient method to solve an equation. Whether it’s drawing a picture or memorizing vocabulary words, both sides of the brain are incorporated. Some of us may be more organized than others and some of us may choose an art class over a math class, but in the end, 28 questions cannot put a label on us.

The science behind the left-brain – right-brain principle arose with the research of Roger W. Sperry in 1981. He found that different tasks are performed in specialized regions in different sides of the brain. However, since then, his experiments have been exaggerated and misconstrued by the public, especially in the form of these online psychological quizzes.

Sure, color may be processed in our right brains and words in our left, but I think that all major decisions require a harmonizing communication between both sides. In the future, no matter what professions we end up in, we will experience situations that will require both sides of our brain –  intuition and analysis, images and words, emotion and language.