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Left Brain-Right Brain

Right-Brained Children ... book coverIn the 1960s Robert Ornstein and Roger Sperry made important advances in our understanding of how the brain works. They discovered, in particular, that the brain is divided into two halves, or hemispheres, and that different kinds of mental functioning take place in each. Thus, in most people the left hemisphere operates sequentially and deals largely with 'academic' activities, such as reading, arithmetic and logic. By contrast, the right hemisphere operates holistically and deals more with 'artistic' activities, such as art, music, colour and creativity.

Since the 1960s there has been considerable interest in exploring the implications of these discoveries, especially in relation to learning and how to make improved use of the brain. Traditionally, education has placed emphasis on (dominant) left brain thinking; but increasingly it is being recognised that the involvement of both brains can make dramatic improvements in learning. It is also suggested that a synergistic principle operates between the hemispheres, with the functioning whole brain being significantly greater than the sum of its parts.

Using Both Sides of the Brain

Accelerated Learning and Suggestopedia are examples of two learning systems which have sought to involve both sides of the brain in order to achieve significant increases in learning performance. And I have used such approaches widely in Brainware workshops. Students who have been used to a predominantly left brain 'academic'-oriented education can feel enormously liberated and stimulated when encouraged to explore right brain learning, through activities such as mind-mapping and making increased use of colour and music in their methods of study (see Mind for further details).

Further Information

The application of left and right brain theories to learning is explored extensively in Use your head by Tony Buzan and Drawing on the right side of the brain by Betty Edwards.

For further information about these ideas see:

Funderstanding - Right Brain vs. Left Brain
Left Brain, Right Brain, Whole Brain?
Left Vs. Right - Which Side Are You On?
'Right Brain' or 'Left Brain' - Myth or Reality? by John McCrone

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Page last modified: 9 July 2012
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