The Second Eclectic

Technology changes how we relate to God and each other

From left to right

No, this has nothing to do with my political views or my religious affiliations. Nor has it anything to do with my dexterity.

I’m currently reading A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. The premise of the book is that left-brained jobs are being outsourced or automated, forcing humans to respond by using and developing their right brain functions more.

Everyone already has a primary understanding of the right-brain/left-brain contrast. Here, in the first chapter, the author, Daniel Pink, gives a more in-depth analysis, including the science behind it, of the function of the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

What I found most interesting is how this book fits nicely into my current interpretive filter. The left hemisphere of the brain deals with analysis, logic, language, and linear processes. The right hemisphere deals with interpretation, parallel processes, holistic engagement. If we were to give the left and right brains, singular personalities, the left brain would be the cold calculating analytic, while the right brain would be the touch feely socialite. The left brain is the Architect from The Matrix. The right brain is Yoda, maybe.

Pink gives us left-brain thinkers a quick analysis of the right-brain/left-brain contrast. It’s funny: his whole book is designed for the left-brained reader: well structured and linear. But of course, no one is monospheric. We have two halves which function in different ways to best collect and understand various types of information. That’s the beauty of the human brain.

Here’s a run down of the four distinctions between hemispheres:

(1) The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body; the right hemisphere controls the left side of the body.

This is a well-known fact. And to impress your friends you can use the term contralateral to describe it, but basically it’s a more complex version of being cross-eyed.

(2) The left hemisphere is sequential; the right hemisphere is simultaneous.

Pink sums this fact up by saying, “The right hemisphere is the picture; the left hemisphere is the thousand words” (19).

(3) The left hemisphere specializes in text; the right hemisphere specializes in context.

I thought this phrase put it well: “The left hemisphere handles what is said; the right hemisphere handles how it is said.” Interestingly, in studies of people who have had the connections between the right and left hemispheres (called the corpus collosum) disconnected, individuals could understand the meaning of a sentence, but couldn’t understand the emotional inflection carried with it. So something like, “Oh stop it,” could be an angry rejection or a flirtatious invitation, but the individual with this disconnect wouldn’t be able to tell.

(4) The left hemisphere analyzes the details; the right hemisphere synthesizes the big picture.

I’m not sure I fully understand how this is different from #3, but Pink emphasizes the processes of analysis and synthesis. The left hemisphere disseminates information into pieces, while the right hemisphere puts those pieces into a larger puzzle with other previously gathered pieces.

I appreciate that Pink wastes no time offering interesting information to the reader. He simply begins where others might spend a chapter laying out all the pieces. This immediacy helps draw in the reader immediately, giving him/her ideas to chew on from the starting gate.