Is Your Child Left-Brain or Right-Brain Dominant?
As a parent, understanding your child’s brain and developing his strengths to their fullest potential is the dream, the pinnacle of achievement.
And for a while, we thought we thought we were getting closer to that sparkling mirage – science seemed to be telling us that we’re all either dominant in the right or left side of our brains, and that that dominance would predict whether we are better at math and logic skills (left brain) or the creative arts (right brain).
And then the tests came, promising to delve inside your child’s brain to find his dominant side so that you know in advance whether to expect an Einstein or a Beethoven.
Yet can an organ as complex as the human brain be compartmentalised so neatly?
One brain or two?
The theory that different hemispheres of the brain govern different skill sets has its fair share of followers. Right brainers are said to be more artsy, spontaneous and subjective with left-brainers as the opposite – detail-oriented, logical and analytical.
Hence, abilities associated with right brain dominance gravitated toward the creative, including facial recognition, expressing emotions, music, processing colour and images. Left brain tasks seemed to have more to do with the practicalities of language, logic, numbers and reasoning.
At one time, even left-handedness and right-handedness was tied to the left-brain/right-brain theory.
A recent study by neuroscientists of the University of Utah found no evidence for dominance in a particular side of the brain after scanning the brains of more than 1,000 people aged 7 to 29.
While it might be true that certain brain functions occur more on one side of the brain, the divide is not as clear-cut as the left-brained/right-brained theory makes it out to be.
For example, language tends to occur in the left brain, but certain aspects of language, like intonation and emphasis are right brain tasks.
As such, brain experts can now agree that we use both sides of the brain to carry out the most majority of daily tasks.
What does this mean for parents?
You’ve probably seen – or even taken – some of the ubiquitous tests that determine the side of your brain you’re dominant on; maybe you’ve tried a detailed questionnaire, or attempted to determine whether the .gif of the spinning dancer is going clockwise or anti-clockwise.
These tests are mostly harmless fun for you, but if your little one is taking it as well be sure to warn him to take the results with a (very large) pinch of salt, lest he feels type-casted.
Scientific experiments have shown that telling children that they’re ‘smart’ caused them to develop the notion that intelligence was something of a genetic condition, an innate talent that one either had or did not have. This notion later limited their ability to work on challenging tasks as they become demotivated by the difficulties they faced, believing themselves innately inadequate rather than seeing challenges as something they could work towards improving on.
Imagine, then, telling a child that he’s genetically left-brain-dominant and therefore better at maths, and not as good in the creative arts – not only is this completely false, when the child faces difficulties in learning an instrument in the future, for example, he’s a lot more likely to give up because he believes he’s simply hard-wired to not be good at it.
In truth, the human brain has vast potential to learn and there is literally no limit to what a young mind can achieve, never mind what the IQ or brain tests may say. There’s no shortcut to success – whole-brain stimulation and a holistic learning experience are key, and you simply have to make the time and effort to expose your child to a variety of learning situations.
But rest assured; it will definitely be worth it in the long run.