The terms "left brain" and "right brain" refer to the left and right hemispheres of your brain. They each tend to process things differently, as explained in the following two paragraphs. However, the following are generalizations. They hold true for over 90% of right-handed people, and only 70% of left-handed people. In the cases where they aren't true, the division of labor and processing styles is usually still there, but reversed, with the right side handling the things that most people's left side handles, and vice-versa.
The left brain processes thing more sequentially and systematically than the right. It is more rational, or at least more logical, analytical and objective. It tends to look at the parts more than the whole. Finally, it was learned early on in studies of the hemisphere that the left side handles speech for most of us.
The right brain is the "artists" brain. It handles thing in more random and subjective manor. It is generally responsible for "hunches" and other intuitive processes. It looks more at wholes, and is best at pattern-recognition, making it the "map reading" part of the brain.
How distinct are the two halves of your brain? Consider the amazing experiments involving people who have had the corpus callosum cut. This surgery is performed on epileptics to reduce the incidence of seizures. It isolates most of the right hemisphere from the left hemisphere.
In a typical experiment, a divider lets a subject see two objects - say, a cup with the right eye and a lemon with the left. Asked what they see, they'll say "a cup," because their left brain process both language and information from the right eye. When asked to write down what they see, however, using their left hand, they'll write "a lemon," because both their left hand and eye are controlled by the right side of the brain.
The two hemispheres normally work more closely together. These split-brain experiments show how distinct the two sides really are, though. Many people think that there is some benefit to getting the two sides working better together, as they each have their strengths. Some claim that meditation accomplishes this, and there is some evidence at least for the balancing of electrical activity between the two sides during a meditative state. Alternately, you could develop whichever hemisphere seems weakest in you.
Left Brain Right Brain Dominance
You will usually favor one style or another of thinking, and this may be an indication of the dominance of either your right brain or left brain. It seems likely, for example, that the choice between joining the debating team or the art class in school would have something to do with which side is dominant. You may have noticed that left-handed people, who presumably have a more developed right hemisphere, are more often artists.
What if your left brain is dominant, and you want to work on developing your right brain? You could try singing, a right-side activity. By the way, those who stutter often don't stutter singing, because singing is handled differently than regular speech (right brain versus left brain). Writing or, even better, reciting free-form poetry and studying maps may help as well. These are not proven to be beneficial to "right brain development" by scientific studies yet, but there is no danger in experimenting in these areas.
To stimulate and strengthen the thinking processes of your "left brain," talk about things as logically as you can. Picking apart an argument or something you read, and analyzing it can exercise this part of the brain too. Again, there is little hard evidence as to the effects of these specific exercises, but talking or working on your analytical skills are safe things to do, so experiment freely. Writing this article is almost certainly a left brain activity, by the way.
To be more "whole brained" in your approach to things, work on your weakest areas, using some of the tips above. Try to also bring both sides into whatever you do. Metaphors, for example, are a right-hemisphere process, but can be used in logical (left-hemisphere) debate. Your artistic work could include more analysis. Can these practices really help balance your thinking? Time and more research will let us know, but it seems likely, and it seems equally unlikely that more fully using your right brain and left brain will hurt you.
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