The brain is divided into two cerebral hemispheres: the left and the right. The is known at lateralization, and scientists and psychologists have been studying how lateralization affects brain function since the 1960s (or, if you want to be hyper-historical, since perhaps the 1860s).
Either way, we have come to associate certain characteristics with each side of the brain. There is still much debate concerning fact vs. fiction, but this post is interested in what we think we know about that more logical hemisphere, the left brain. If you’d rather not choose sides, use this course on whole-brain thinking to get the most out of your mind.
Here’s just a brief introduction to the left side of the brain. First of all, let us remind ourselves that each side of the brain corresponds to the opposite side of the body. The left brain controls the right side of the body, and the right brain controls the left side of the body. Interestingly, most people show a tendency to favor one side of the brain over the other, and there are stereotypes to fit.
Generally speaking, the right brain is associated with creativity, intuition and subjectivity. The left brain, then, is associated with logic, analytics and rationale. Neither side is considered better than the other, although people with each type like to claim otherwise. If you would rather be one side or the other, that is unfortunately beyond your control. You may be able to use both sides as you wish, but any tendencies you have are written in your DNA.
So while the war between sides of the brain rages, recent conclusions are that using the whole brain is always preferred. There are similar opinions that the left/right dilemma is mostly false; sure, different parts of the brain control different things, but are we really associated so strongly with one side that we can classify ourselves against that criteria? For the time being, there isn’t conclusive evidence either way, but let’s examine what we think we know about the left brain’s characteristics (whether or not they dominate our tendencies).
1. Left Brain Characteristics (LBC): Logic
While the left brain is not known for its creative prowess, it is associated with certain things that definitely require, or are useful for, a degree of creativity: writing (and language in general), reading, remembering, critical thinking and speaking. This may be useful to keep in ming as just saying the right brain is the “creative” side is more of a generalization and not entirely accurate.The left brain processing information in a logical sense; that is, it likes to give preference to fact and to thoroughly investigate a matter before forming a decision. This would oppose the right bright, which would tend to make subjective or even emotional decisions. A left-brained person would approach a problem systematically; maybe they would form a plan of action. You can see how this logic would allow a left-brained person to write, speak and communicate clearly and effectively. You can learn how to think creatively regardless of brain-side with this 6-step course on how to train and master your mind for success.
2. LBC: Sequence
Sequence is similar to logic in that it prefers a systematic approach. But more specifically, the left brain is sequential in that it can dissect a “whole” problem or situation and break it down into sequences. Then it can apply logic to examine each piece individually and in relation to the whole. Again, this makes left-brained people very concerned with forethought and planning. Whatever the objective is, the left brain will construct a series of stepping stones to attain it. Left-brained people are right at home (no pun intended) with deadlines, schedules, regulations, etc.
You can use sequence to improve your mind, too. This blog post details yoga sequences to revitalize your entire brain.
3. LBC: Critical Thinking/Reasoning
In other words, the left brain is exceptional at mathematics. Even when subjects in mathematics become more theoretical, the left brain still excels at processing symbols and notations. Of course, the left brain’s proficiency for memory helps them build upon past ideas and use sequences to further their ideas. Combine this with a propensity for logic, and a left-brained person can make short work of difficult mathematical equations and theories. There will be occasions when the right brain’s uncanny ability to rely on intuition come in useful, but the critical thinking and reasoning of the left brain make it a far more reliable mathematician.
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4. LBC: Speech And Language
The left brain dominates the language department. Whether it’s learning new languages, expanding your expertise, listening, talking or responding, the left brain has you covered. Interestingly, this is another affirmation that listening is incredibly important and underrated, because the part of the brain that controls hearing is located in the left brain. This allows left-brained people to easily comprehend conversations and spoken language and respond accordingly.
The left brain’s efficiency with logic and sequence makes left-brained people remarkably lucid writers. It is not difficult for them to think logically and then to translate these thoughts into words. It’s as natural as objective thinking is to the right brain.
5. LBC: Self-Sufficiency
This is something you don’t often hear mentioned in the left brain/right brain conversation. Left-brainers adapt more readily to their environments, although this isn’t always a good thing. The down-side of this is that the left brain likes to follow rules; this is a down-side because sometimes rules need to be broken, and that’s where the right brain comes in. Still, adjusting to new rules or environments can be a necessity, and the left brain takes it all in stride.
When the left brain encounters a situation that is free of law or a way of ordering, it likes to create its own. Again, this just reenforces the belief that the left brain has an advantage when it comes to problem solving, even “creative” problem solving. This Neuroscience Now course can help you tweak your mindset to find success in any business situation through a left-brain process of framing and logic.
6. LBC And The Arts
The left brain might have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to artistic creativity, but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely inept. A logical, critical and language-based mind still has a tendency to create (as mentioned under “Self-Sufficiency.” Let’s take a loot at where the left brain can make an artistic impression.
Abstract art tends to be reserved for the right brain; emotion is expressed without any recognizable form. Conversely, the left brain creates more literal art. Photography and film can be wonderful outlets for left brains with a creative tendency, as they allow abstraction but are ultimately rooted in something that is “seen.” But even a left-brainer can tap into the other side’s powers with this post on right brain exercises to stimulate creative thought.
Obviously, left brained people also make great writers. There may have been some right-brain activity at work in the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s magical realism, but the clarity he was able to create through this technique was likely a result of left-brain power.
7. New Ideas And Reality
Left brains are not famous for creative, ground-breaking ideas, but then again we aren’t really sure how the two sides of the brains work – or don’t work – together. What we think we know is that the right brain can generate a new idea more efficiently and perhaps to a more intense degree than the left brain, whereas the left brain can take an idea (perhaps conceived by the right side) and run with it. In other words, the right brain can initiate something but the left brain can handle the planning, processing, logic, etc. Total success is not possible without both sides of the brain firing on all cylinders.
The left brain also seems to have a propensity for reality. You would not expect to find many metaphysical wanderings in the left brain. While this might limit the left brain in terms of considering all possibilities, it also prevents the left brain from getting lost in the impossible, unrealistic or off-topic. The left brain prefers to stay rooted in and focused on reality. This is the epitome of the left brain relying on logic, sequence, critical reasoning and self-sufficiency.
Whole Brain Is Better
As the earlier article I referenced at the beginning of this post concluded (about uniting the two sides of the brain), it is always better to use your whole brain. This way you get the best of both worlds and are not stuck deceiving yourself into believing that one side is better than the other. But if you’ve been labeled a left-brained persona and want to tap into a different side of creativity, check out this awesome class on how to use current science to enhance your use of creative thinking.