Are you left-brained or right-brained? Are you more creative or rational? You can find out easily enough – there are myriad online tests that will help you find your dominant hemisphere.
Or so they claim. In fact, a study in PLOS One last year showed fairly conclusively that the idea one side of our brain is more dominant than the other – and by extension, that this dictates what kind of person you are – is little more than a myth.
It's a shame: this seemed such an attractive idea. After all, there are two distinct (though connected) hemispheres of the brain and some of us are clearly more arty, others more sciencey. Excuse the pun, but it seemed something of a no-brainer. That's the trouble with myths about the brain – just because they sound credible and have the veneer or neuroscience doesn't make them true.
"Neuromyths" can merely perpetuate misconceptions about the brain. Of greater concern is when they influence how we are raised or educated. You may be familiar with the idea of different types of learner. For example, if you are a "visual learner" you need content delivered primarily visually. But there is very little scientific evidence to support this idea, and labelling pupils by type of learner and delivering content accordingly limits the richness of their learning experiences and may reduce what is learned.
Neuroscience is a blossoming field of research and its potential impact on education is wide-ranging. We are already beginning to see examples of it being applied. For example, many American schools now start their classes later in the morning after research suggesting that teenagers do not like early starts – not because they are inherently lazy, but because they have a natural sleep pattern that leads to a late-to-bed, late-to-rise cycle. When systematically tested in US schools, later start times were found to be beneficial. Whether this would be the case in the UK is as yet unknown.
Written By: Dr Hilary Leevers
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