Nobel prize winning neuropsychologist, Roger Sperry, is credited with having developed the left-brain, right-brain dominance theory that ultimately revealed the distinct functions and contributions accredited predominantly to either the left or right side of the brain.
While this theory has been greatly exaggerated in its suggestions as time passed, it has also evolved to discover that in many cases, such as mathematics, the brain functions at optimal levels when both sides work together.
Interestingly enough, however, we still often refer to this brain dominance theory today when describing specific personalities. While some may view it as a pop-psychology notion, the core findings seem to still hold some weight today.
As with anything else, no one will fit into a neat little package of scientific theory, but much like an eerily spot-on horoscope, it’s hard to deny the case this theory makes for either side.
I may never have cared to look into the background of Sperry’s work in this area had I not been so compelled to find an explanation for my strong skill set in one specific realm and seemingly total lack thereof in another.
In school, for example, I lived for the classes that demanded some real creative intuition. Anything that required me to manipulate a Shakespearean verse or summarize the intentions behind character actions was right up my alley.
Similarly, I excelled in my art and music classes, and courses that required any level of work in social communications were always a breeze.
That being said, I never met a math equation I didn’t hate. Numbers always gave me anxiety. They were so definitive with no room for negotiation, that I just couldn’t compute. Literally.
The logic, numbers-based aspects of school was my kryptonite. I took on the extra homework, enrolled in after-school programs and even hired tutors, all to simply keep afloat of the material and pass with something credible.
Clearly — for as much of the theory as you care to accept — I have always been a right-brain individual. Outdated, as this whole study may seem, it has always struck me as something of a comforting notion; I don’t just suck at numbers, I’m programmed to suck at numbers.
Okay, so maybe this is starting to read like something of a convenient excuse for my shortcomings, and maybe it is. Don’t get me wrong; I do not accept, under any scientific rule, that any component of who we are cannot be tweaked or improved.
Constant growth and change are the only way to live. I will say, however, that I’d be hard-pressed to spend an hour with any one person and not discover that he or she slants in one neurologically pointed direction or another.
Far from a tool used in judgment, I’ve always found comfort in the thought that amongst all the people in the world who seem a lifetime ahead of me in one regard or another, a great number of them and I do share a common brainy bond.
Many people rule the brain dominance theory as a full-on myth, an accidental and massively flawed derivative of 1960s research in treatments for epilepsy, which included cutting the brain. This allowed for study of each side post-isolation.
These skeptics may be on to something; they certainly have their share of current studies and mathematical equations to back their claims. Then again, like I said, I don’t quite relate to numbers.
In a perfect world, we would all find our skill sets to be balanced between both the creative and logical ends. We would solve mathematical equations with ease and in the same breaths, possess the ability to reimagine those numbers in a musical fashion and then, turn them into song verses.
In the real world, however, that's not likely. A top scientist would likely rather keel over before attempting to pull a Pocahontas and “paint with all the colors of the wind.”
With the exception of those few who catapult to immense wealth and fame in their right-brained ventures, it would seem the creative saps of the world are destined for struggle.
When what you do takes more than 250 words and a portfolio of “work” to explain, you simply won't have an easy go at settling into your place at the table.
If you’re good at computers, math or any kind of scientific pursuit — anything that hits one single, specific note of ability —, there will be no shortage of jobs available to you.
In fact, the more narrow your skill set, the better. You can then slap the title of “specialist” on it and, assuming you’re prepared to spend a lifetime and small fortune in post-secondary schooling, set adrift the SS. Set For Life.
It's possibly a bit of an exaggeration, sure, but tell me I’m wrong. This isn’t meant to discourage. After all, I find myself right there with you, on our makeshift raft, floating up the sh*tty "creative creek."
Fear not, like-minded people, as there is hope for us. Where so many will fall into roles that seem tailor-made for them, we will be the ones to design roles that don’t yet exist. We will forge ahead in a sea of logic and wax poetically until the whole thing comes apart.
We are the pioneers of change, the outside the boxers, the oddballs of our time. Go ahead and embrace it.