We are left brained or we are right brained: Psychology Myth Busting #3

Third in a series of Psychology Myth Busting.

I’ve never been a fan of pseudo psychology and the the left brain / right brain rubbish that is out there drives me mad.

This ad from Mercedes Benz highlights it perfectly. Who based on this, would want to be left-brain dominant?

Left Brain Right Brain

Let’s look at the right brain first: creativity, imagination, intuition, arts, rhythm, feelings and visualisation. Sounds great doesn’t it? For the left brain: logic, analysis, sequencing, mathematics, facts, words, and computation. Sounds rather boring. That’s the problem, these attributes are very polarised. If you are told you are left brained suddenly you are pigeon holed into being one type of person.

Back in 1987 this was shown to be a myth. Fast forward 25 years and it’s still a myth. Here’s the abstract from the 1987 paper:

This paper reviews research on the functional differences between the 2 hemispheres of the human brain and finds that such claims represent a hemisphere mythology that is contradicted by research on the nature of the differences between the hemispheres.

Let me repeat that, a hemisphere mythology.

There is no evidence that difference between the left/right sides of the brain has any effect on behaviour. It’s a myth, a fallacy. Designers you are not left brained any more than developers are right brained. Using crappy theory to put people in different jobs is at best misguided and at worst dangerous. Let’s stop propagating this junk.

Death to bullshit science

The conclusion, always question psychology theory when it’s applied to design or design people.

  1. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – Favourite of the ad agency
  2. Miller’s number, 7 ± 2 – Haunted by a number
  3. Left Brain / Right Brain – What? You can’t be creative and code?
  4. Myers Briggs – No better than a Buzzfeed quiz

If you want to learn how to evaluate psychology theory and apply it to design and user experience, you should come to one of my workshops. Learn more and sign up to the email list.

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