Left Brain/Right Brain and Other Pop Psychology Myths

I’m an INTP, left-brained, kinetic learner!

Or maybe not? Every science has unique myths around it. And let’s face it: many facts and theories get oversimplified or lost in translation. Not every scientist is an expert in every scientific field. Psychology in particular has a tendency to be misinterpreted, leading to an entire subfield: pop psychology. Many claims crop up from time to time without any or with little evidence to support them. These claims include:

Left Brain/Right Brain

We’ve all heard this one: the left hemisphere of the brain is more analytical, and the right hemisphere is more artistic. This does have some basis in reality, as many brain structures are lateralized to an extent. For example, structures involved in speech and language tend to be on the left side of the brain. However, the majority of this hypothesis is pop psychology. It is the links between hemispheres, rather than specific structures, that drive creativity and analytical thinking. Neural plasticity also debunks this myth. There are cases where people have had half their brain removed and go on to live normal lives (the procedure is typically a last resort treatment for severe seizures, and generally done on young children; a hemispherectomy where the brain is less plastic would have more severe consequences). If the idea of specialized hemispheres was true, this would not be the case.

Learning Styles

Are you a kinetic, visual, or verbal learner? You may be surprised that there is no evidence to support the idea of learning styles. This myth is not outright harmful. It may encourage students to learn in ways comfortable to them. However, the myth may have some unintended repercussions. Students are “locked” in a certain style, and may not wish to adapt to other styles. There is evidence that suggests multimodal styles are the best way to learn. More evidence for combining learning styles comes in the form of taking notes. Students who handwrite notes, which can be a combination of all three styles, tend to remember lecture material better than those who take notes on a laptop. Ultimately, it is best to explore different ways of learning, tailoring styles as needed.

Myers-Briggs

This myth is one of the most persistent in the discipline. Every word in this sentence links to a different Myers-Briggs personality test. Admittedly, “different” may be a bit of a strong word; while each test is hosted at a different website, the questions are similar (if not the exact same) and the end results should be the same. Users are categorized into one of sixteen personality types based on introversion/extroversion, intuitive/sensory, feeling/thinking, and judging/perceiving. For example, someone with the personality type ESTJ would be more extroverted, sensory, thinking, and judging. However, the test just isn’t very good. Humans do not fit into dichotomies; you may be introverted with your classmates but extroverted with your roommates. The theories the test was based on were also never proven, and results can be inconsistent. While the test can be a fun game, it is ultimately just that.

Editor: Robyn Sutter

 

Kathy Garner

Kathy Garner is a third year neuroscience major at the University of Texas at Dallas. In the five minutes of free time she occasionally has between class, a tutoring job, and being an undergraduate research assistant, she enjoys cooking, quality literature, and trashy television.

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