Left Brain, Right Brain – Creativity And Innovation
This image is from a series of Mercedes Benz ads. The text reads:
Left brain: I am the left brain. I am a scientist. A mathematician. I love the familiar. I categorize. I am accurate. Linear. Analytical. Strategic. I am practical. Always in control. A master of words and language. Realistic. I calculate equations and play with numbers. I am order. I am logic. I know exactly who I am.
Right brain: I am the right brain. I am creativity. A free spirit. I am passion. Yearning. Sensuality. I am the sound of roaring laughter. I am taste. The feeling of sand beneath bare feet. I am movement. Vivid colors. I am the urge to paint on an empty canvas. I am boundless imagination. Art. Poetry. I sense. I feel. I am everything I wanted to be.
[Image and text from post: Left Brain/Right Brain: Gorgeously Illustrated Mercedes Benz Ads.]
Having two “brains” with different functions is valid neuroscience. But how true is the idea of the right hemisphere being the “creative” one?
As popular and appealing as that concept is, it can also be a misleading oversimplification. A number of writers and neuroscientists encourage an integration of thinking, using both sides of our brain/mind.
A summary of his 1998 book “The Right Mind: Making Sense of the Hemispheres” quotes the author, psychologist Robert Ornstein: “I began this book with a pretty firm prejudice. I believed that after two decades of research we’d find… that there might be little to distinguish the two sides.”
The summary continues, “Instead, he concluded that ‘the division of the mind is profound,’ with deep roots in evolution, embryonic development, and society. It is profound, but not simplistic: Ornstein shows how the right hemisphere is neither a chimpanzee-like moron nor a mystical genius. It provides the context, the big picture, while the left hemisphere keeps track of the details.” [Amazon.com]
Daniel Pink on two modes of thinking
In her Psych Central post Right Brain Skills: Valuing the Attributes of the Emotionally Sensitive, Karyn Hall, PhD writes that Daniel Pink states in his book, “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future” that our culture “has been focused on logical, computer-like capabilities (primarily left brain activities) for some time.
“This focus on facts, programming and numbers has also meant a devaluing of skills that are often the strengths of the emotionally sensitive–empathy, making meaning, consoling, caretaking, awareness of undercurrents in interpersonal interactions and creativity.”
She says Pink “describes two types of thinking. One is L-Directed Thinking, which is characteristic of the left hemisphere of the brain. This type of thinking is sequential, literal, and analytic. He labelled the other type as R-Directed Thinking. This type is characteristic of the right hemisphere and is simultaneous, metaphorical, aesthetic, and contextual. Pink notes that both approaches are necessary to build productive lives and societies, and that the devaluation of R-Directed thinking is fading.”
Another related book: The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image, by Leonard Shlain.
Video: Psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist on the divided brain
Book: The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, by Iain McGilchrist.
Teaching to shift toward the right hemisphere
There are many other books on “right brain” thinking that may or may not be helpful. One author that continues to be acclaimed for her teachings is Betty Edwards.
In his post Conversations on Creativity with Darold Treffert, Part VII: The Inner Savant In All of Us, Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD interviews Darold Treffert, M.D., considered one of the foremost experts on savantism in the world.
Dr. Treffert says, “What Betty Edwards has done, for years now, is teach people to draw like you would teach somebody a second language… if you read her book, the reason that she is teaching people how to draw is not because she wants them to be able to draw better. What she wants them to do is to shift gears a little bit and spend a little bit more time in the right hemisphere.”
He points out, “There are companies, major corporations, that send their executives to Betty Edwards’ courses, not to have them learn to draw better but because the vision, seeing the bigger picture, and creativity itself is more likely a right-brain-dominant domain than a left-brain one.
“So what these executives come away with, hopefully, is an increased ability to see the big picture of their company, or the big picture of their industry. It’s a convincing book, to me at least, and her examples show that in terms of getting people to shift gears a little bit.”
[See more quotes by Dr. Treffert in my post Brain Differences and Creativity.]
Integrating both sides
In his classic book “Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention,” creativity researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi includes descriptions of characteristics of creative people.
One of the items on his list is “Convergent (rational, left brain, sound judgment) and divergent (intuitive, right brain, visionary) thinking…”
From my post The Complexity of the Creative Personality.
Video: Dr. Dan Siegel On Integrating the Two Hemispheres of Our Brains
One of his books is The Whole-Brain Child.
Neuropsychiatrist Daniel Siegel, MD, is clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine where he is on the faculty of the Center for Culture, Brain, and Development and Co-Director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center.
In the video, he talks about using techniques such as guided relaxation and imagery to help bring more balance. See multiple titles by various authors in my articles database on Meditation and mindfulness.
Related Psych Central post: Imaging Finds Visual Creativity Uses Both Right, Left Brain By Rick Nauert PhD. “We need both hemispheres for creative processing,” said researcher Lisa Aziz-Zadeh, Ph.D.
Eby, D. (2013). Left Brain, Right Brain – Creativity And Innovation. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 22, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/creative-mind/2012/02/left-brain-right-brain-creativity-and-innovation/