Friday, May 18, 2012

From a Squirrel's Eye View: Left-Brain vs. Right

"Creativity is that marvelous capacity to grasp mutually distinct realities and draw a spark from their juxtaposition." --Max Ernst

I  had turned to my left that morning while on my walk, having spotted a cardinal. I fixed the camera on the designated subject, analyzing what a great shot the splash of red would be against the green. Logic told me I was in a good spot. Reason tried to convince me the bird would stay long enough for me to snap the picture. Numbering the seconds while I set the best setting, I shifted--and the bird flew away. Sighing, I turned to my right.

And instinctively (intuitively) I realized the better shot was on the other side--this squirrel, a lively creature as inquisitive about me as I was of him. What a character he was. Fun to watch--and a great example of the value of being in the right place at the right time. Random. Colorful. Full of expression and feeling. Just look at that face! And, I might add, doing quite the balancing act.

Left-brain versus right. The concept of left-brain or right-brain dominance was developed from research conducted by Roger W. Sperry in the late 1960s. (He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work, in 1981.) Generally-speaking, a person who is left-brained is said to be more logical, analytical, and objective, while a person who is right-brained is said to be more intuitive, thoughtful and subjective.

"In general," this from the online article Left vs. Right, Which Side Are You On?, "the left and right hemispheres of your brain process information in different ways. We tend to process information using our dominant side." Examples of contrasting forms of processing include: linear vs. holistic, sequential vs. random, symbolic vs. concrete, logical vs. intuitive, verbal vs. nonverbal, and reality-based vs. fantasy-oriented.

And: "The left side of the brain processes information in a linear manner. It processes from part to whole. It takes takes pieces, lines them up, and arranges them in logical order; then it draws conclusions. The right-brain, however, processes from whole to parts, holistically. It starts with the answer. It sees the big picture first, not the details."

Is it better to be right-brained rather than left? Not necessarily. "Though right-brain or non-verbal thinking is often regarded as more 'creative', there is no right or wrong here; it's merely two different ways of thinking." (Marion Boddy-Evans, "However, the learning and thinking process is enhanced when both sides of the brain participate in a balanced manner. This means strengthening your less dominant hemisphere of the brain." (Left vs. Right, again.)

I am definitely a left-brain thinker. Spelling (it involves sequencing) comes easy to me. I make lots and lots (did I mention lots?) of lists and when I complete a task, I enjoy checking it off (linear thinking). I've been known to keep master schedules and records of daily plans. Yep, the left side is definitely more developed than the right. Yet I'd like to be more balanced and tap into the right side of things, too. Maybe even see things from a squirrel's eye view, you think?

What are some activities that might help do this? Consider: writing prompts, word association, poetry, photography, freewriting, journaling, clustering, brainstorming, collages.

Anything you might add to my (right-side, not left) list?


  1. I think I too am a left-brain thinker. Spelling is and was always easy for me too. But then, I tend to see the big picture too and not the details; a characteristic trait of right-brain thinkers. So what does that make me?

  2. How about watching/playing with children? My grandchildren always seem to lead me in an unexpected direction!


  3. Rachna--I think that makes you balanced--both sides are working together!

    Peggy--So true--certainly one of my favorite activities, too. Thanks!

  4. I think people have definite dominant ways of processing the world, however often our jobs or our interests generally require that we develop our weaker side. My opinion is that a writer needs a pretty good balance of both. I'm surprised at symbolic vs concrete. I would think the left-brain would create the concrete images and the right, the symbolic.

  5. Thanks so much, Cathy, for your comment. Your point about symbolic vs. concrete is legitimate. After revisiting the source quoted, I see where the confusion lies--it is in the definition of the word 'symbolic.' Symbolic to that author refers to 'symbols,' as in "the left brain has no trouble processing symbols (letters, words, mathematical endeavors)." They then refer to 'concrete' as to the fact that the right-brain person wants to 'see, feel or touch the real object.' So, according to them, symbolic is to symbols as concrete is to sensory needs, though it does still seem rather confusing. But I hope this explanation helps a little.Thanks again for bringing this up :-)

  6. I think I tend to be more left-brained, but my right brain comes through in creative pursuits like writing and drawing.