Monthly Archives: November 2013

Our dual nature

Left And Right

Blaine Hebert

November 2013

One of the features of life is its frequent presentation of dual choices; male and female, right and left, conservative and liberal, yin and yang, even our personal decisions are often dual: fight or flight, spend or save,

In recent past a popular psychology concept developed in our culture, regarding the two halves of our brains, the left and right hemispheres.  Awareness and speculation on the function and importance of our two hemispheres has been extensive, and many books and articles were written about the supposed answer to many of our educational issues using this new-found information.

Unfortunately, the magic answer to our problems, though it still may be found in this area, has not been resolved, mostly because, as we have learned more about this topic we have discovered: “Its complicated”. 

If you are unfamiliar with the discoveries or its progress here is a very brief and well digested summary:

In the mid 1960s Roger W. Sperry and his graduate student Michael Gazzaniga demonstrated the different functions and specializations of the two hemispheres of the human brain.  Working with severe epileptic patients the main connection between the two brain hemispheres, the corpus callosum, was surgically cut.  After a period of recovery the patients were found to be fairly normal (the surgery was partially effective in controlling the epileptic secures).  Following a series of careful tests and experiments it was found that within each patient had been created two separate minds, each with unique strengths and abilities; a social and linguistic left side and an intuitive, practical right side.  This work led to a 1981 Nobel Peace Prize in Medicine and Physiology for Sperry.

From this came a flood of enthusiastic and speculative writings on the nature of the human mind and its application to psychology and education.  School curricula were re-written and pop-psychology embraced the new outlook on the human psyche.

Over time the enthusiasm for this found piece of knowledge has waned and any advances made it its name were lost.  The reason: “It’s complicated”.

Though the concept of left brain – right brain is itself fairly simple the details complicate it.  Additionally, any insight and revelation gained from our study of Left and Right must itself be understood and reported primarily by one side; our linguistic and studious left brain, while the deeper insights must be perceived by the intuition of our right side, which is very difficult to communicate without recourse to our social and linguistic left side.  Hence the breadth and depth of our new discovery must be appraised and interpreted by our very non-intuitive and socially motivated side.

Therein lies a complex problem; Those who should be best equipped to understand, interpret and apply this knowledge, the most educated and highly trained among us, have all been highly trained and indoctrinated through an educational process that is itself highly verbal, social and organized in a very left-hemisphere oriented system.

A study of several recent psychological textbooks often shows only brief and cursory mention of the discoveries of left and right hemisphere different functions.  One text book only discussed the topic for a half page.

It is likely that the dual nature of our minds, the coordination and occasional dysfunction between our hemispheres that is the source of most of mankind’s troubles, and the understanding of our dual and often competing hemispheres that may hold the solution of our problems.

Certainly we cannot hope to understand ourselves without a grasp of the nature and organization of our own minds; something that is sorely lacking in our present understanding.