Your Brain - Ch 3 part 2 of 2

Your Brain - Ch 3 part 2 of 2 - Your Brain INFORMATION...

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Unformatted text preview: Your Brain INFORMATION PROCESSING Inside each of our skulls, therefore, we have a double brain with two ways of knowing. The dualities and differing characteristics of the two halves of the brain and body, intuitively expressed in our language, have a real basis in the physiology of the human brain. Because the connecting fibers are intact in normal brains, we rarely experience at a conscious level conflicts revealed by the tests on split-brain patients. Nevertheless, as each of our hemispheres gathers in the same sensory information, each half of our brains may handle the information in different ways: the task may be divided between the hemispheres, each handling the part suited to its style. Or one hemisphere, often the dominant left, will “take over” and inhibit the other half. The left hemisphere analyzes, abstracts, counts, marks time, plans step—by-step procedures, verbalizes, makes rational statements based on logic. For example, “Given numbers a, [7, andc —— we can say that ifa is greater than [7, and 19 is greater than c, then a is necessarily greater than c.” This state— ment illustrates the left-hemisphere mode: the analytic, verbal, figuring-out, sequential, symbolic, linear, objective mode. On the other hand, we have a second way of knowing: the right—hemiSphere mode. We “see” things in this mode that may be imaginary — existing only in the mind’s eye — or recall things that may be real (can you image your front door, for example?). We see how things exist in space and how the parts go together to make up the whole. Using the right hemisphere, we Understand metaphors, we dream, we create new combinations seems to fall into place” without figuring things out in a logical Eider. When this occurs, people often spontaneously exclaim, V6 8“ It” 01‘ “Ah, yes, now I see the picture.” The classic 35 cian Henri Poincare described a sud— den intuition that gave him the solu— tion to a difficult problem: “One evening, contrary to my cus- tom, I drank black coffee and could not sleep. Ideas rose in crowds; I felt them collide until pairs interlocked, so to speak, making a stable combina- tion." [That strange phenomenon provided the intuition that solved the troublesome problem. Poincare con- tinued,] “It seems, in such cases, that one is present at his own unconscious work, made partially perceptible to the overexcited conSciousness, yet without having changed its nature. Then we vaguely comprehend what distinguishes the two mechanisms or, if you wish, the working methods of the two egos.” Dr. J. William Bergquist, a mathematician and specialist in the computer language known as APL, proposed in a paper given at Snow- mass, Colorado, in 1977 that we can look forward to computers which combine digital and analog functions in one machine. Dr. Bergquist dubbed his machine “The Bifurcated Computer." He stated that such a computer would function similarly to the two halves of the human brain. “The left hemisphere analyzes over time, whereas the right hemisphere synthesizes over space.” ~Jerre Levy “Psychohiological Implications of Bilateral Asymmetry" Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain W Many creative people seem to have intuitive awareness of the separate— sided brain. For example, Rudyard Kipling wrote the following poem, entitled “The Two-Sided Man,” over fifty years ago. Much I owe to the lands that grew—- More to the Lives that fed— But most to the Allah Who gave me Two Separate sides to my head. Much I reflect on the Good and the True In the faiths beneath the sun But most upon Allah Who gave me Two Sides to my head, not one. I would go without shirt or shoe, Friend, tobacco or bread, Sooner than lose for a minute the two Separate sides of my head! —Rudyard Kipling “Approaching forty, I had a singular dream in which I almost grasped the meaning and understood the nature of what it is that wastes in wasted time.”- —Cyril Connolly Tbe Unquiet Grave: A Word Cycle by Palinuri: example of this kind of exclamation is the exultant cry, “Eureka!” (I have found it!) attributed to Archimedes. According to the story, Archimedes experienced a flash of insight while bathing that enabled him to formulate his principle of using the weight of displaced water to determine the weight of solid objects. This, then, is the right-hemisphere mode: the intuitive, sub- jective, relational, holistic, time-free mode. This is also the dis- dained, weak, left-handed mode which in our culture has been generally ignored. For example, most of our educational system has been designed to cultivate the verbal, rational, on-time left hemisphere, while half of the brain of every student is virtually neglected. HALF A BRAIN IS BETTER THAN NONE: A WHOLE BRAIN WOULD BE BETTER With their sequenced verbal and numerical classes, the schools you and I attended were not equipped to teach the right- hemisphere mode. The right hemisphere is not, after all, under very good verbal control. You can’t reason with it. You can’t get it to make logical propositions such as “This is good and that is bad, fora, b, and 6 reasons.” It is metaphorically left—banded, with all the ancient connotations of that characteristic. The right hemisphere is not good at sequencing —-— doing the first thing first, taking the next step, then the next. It may start anywhere, or take everything at once. Furthermore, the right hemisphere hasn’t a good sense of time and doesn’t seem to comprehend what is meant by the term “wasting time” as does the good, sensible left hemisphere. The right brain is not good at categorizing and naming. It seems to regard the thing as—it—is, at the present mo- ment of the present; seeing things for what they simply are, in all of their awesome, fascinating complexity. It is not good at analyzing and abstracting salient characteristics». Even today, though educators are increasingly concerned with the importance of intuitive and creative thought, school systems in general are still structured in the left—hemisphere mode. Teaching is sequenced: students progress through grades one, two, three, etc., in a linear direction. The main subjects learners study are verbal and numerical: reading, writing, arithmetic. Time schedules are followed. Seats are set in rows. Learners converge on answers. Teachers give out grades. And everyone senses that something is amiss. 36 Your Brain The right brain—the dreamer, the artificer, the artist—is lost in our school system and goes largely untaught. We might find a few art classes, a few shop classes, something called “creative writing,” and perhaps courses in music; but it's unlikely that we would find courses in imagination, in visualization, in percep- tual or spatial skills, in creativity as a separate subject, in intui- tion, in inventiveness. Yet educators value these skills and have apparently hoped that students would develop imagination, per- ception, and intuition as natural consequences of a training in verbal, analytic skills. Fortunately, such development often does occur almost in spite of the school system—a tribute to the survival capacity of the right brain. But the emphasis of our culture is so strongly slanted toward rewarding left-brain skills that we are surely losing a very large proportion of the potential ability of the other halves of our children's brains. Scientist Jerre Levy has said— only partly humorously—that American scientific training through graduate school may entirely destroy the right hemi— sphere. We certainly are aware of the effects of inadequate train- ing in verbal, computational skills. The verbal left hemisphere never seems to recover fully, and the effects may handicap stu- dents for life. What happens, then, to the right hemisphere which is hardly trained at all? Perhaps now that neuroscientists have provided a conceptual base for right-brain training, we can begin to build a school system that will teach the whole brain. Such a system will surely include training in drawing skills—an efficient, effective way to gain access to right-brain functions. HANDEDNESS, LEFT OR RIGHT Students ask many questions about left- and right-handedness. This is a good place to address the subject, before we begin instruction in the basic skills of drawing. I will try to cover the main questions, although the extensive research on handedness still seems to be somewhat unresolved and contradictory. First, classifying people as strictly left-handed 0r right-handed is not quite accurate. People range from being completely left- handed or completely right-handed to being completely ambi- dextrous—that is, able to do many things with either hand, with- OUt a decided preference. Most of us fall somewhere on a Continuum, with about 90 percent of humans preferring, more 37 “To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of this particular planet. To formulate and express the contents of this reduced awareness, man has invented and endlessly elaborated those symbol-systems and implicit philosophies which we call languages.” —Aldous Huxley The Doors of Perception Some famous individuals usually classified as left-handers: Charlie Chaplin Judy Garland Ted Williams Robert McNamara George Burns Lewis Carroll King George VI of Britain W. C. Fields Albert Einstein Billy the Kid @een Victoria Harry S. Truman Casey Stengal Charlemagne Paul McCartney Pharoah Rameses II Cole Porter Gerald Ford Cary Grant Ringo Starr Prince Charles Benjamin Franklin Julius Caesar Marilyn Monroe George Bush Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain Mirror writing reverses the shape of every letter and is written from right to left—that is, backwards. Only when held up to a mirror does it become legible for most readers: ‘( '1'.) (N4 $338 \\\ ZC'NWY ‘(H’YLYL ':\\—\'\' (WW. .DLLWAE! ZR‘NT‘ :’:\(\l—\\N E\\—\'\‘ V\\ 3.38M“) (Wm '39P“) (“0 .ZZWO'OOROR E\\'\'\‘ ANN! ‘(Zthk J-Mx .EKXMXDTUO ZHT h“ EMOM 3\-\'\' (EAR The most famous mirror-writer in history is the Italian artist, inventor, and left—hander Leonardo da Vinci. Another is Lewis Carroll, left-handed author of Alice in Wonderland and it sequel, Through the Looking-Glam and What Alice Found There, whose mirror—written poem is shown above. Most right-handers find mirror writing difficult, but it is quite easy for many left-handers. Try writing your signature in mirror writing. — MODE L-mode is the “right-handed,” left— hemisphere mode. The L is foursquare, upright, sensible, direct, true, hard- edged, unfanciful, forceful. or less strongly, the right hand, and 10 percent preferring the left. The percentage of individuals with left-hand preference for handwriting seems to be rising, from about 2 percent in 1932 to about 11 percent in the 19805. The main reason for this rise is probably that teachers and parents have learned to tolerate left- handed writing and no longer force children to use the right hand. This relatively new tolerance is fortunate, because forcible change can cause a child to have serious problems, such as stut- tering, right/left directional confusion, and difficulty in learning to read. A useful way to regard handedness is to recognize that hand preference is the most visible outward sign of how an individ- ual’s brain is organized, as I mentioned on page 27. There are other outward signs: eyedness (everyone has a dominant eye, used in sighting along an edge, for example); and footedness (the foot used to step off a curb or to start a dance step). The key reason for not forcing a child to use the nonpreferred hand is that brain organization is probably genetically determined, and forc- ing a change works against this natural organization. Natural preference is so strong that past efforts to change left-handch often resulted in ambidexterity: children capitulated to pressure — MODE R-rnode is the “left-handed," right- hemisphere mode. The R is curvy, flexi— ble, more playful in its unexpected twists and turns, more complex, diagonal, fan- ciful. 38 Your Brain N3 (in the old days, even punishment) and learned to use the right hand for writing but continued to use the left for everything else. Moreover, there is no acceptable reason for teachers or parents to force a change. Reasons proffered run from “Writing with the left hand looks so uncomfortable,” to “The world is set up for right-handers and my left-handed child would be at a disadvan- tage.” These are not good reasons, and I believe they often mask an inherent prejudice against left—handedness—a prejudice now rapidly disappearing, I’m happy to report. Putting prejudice aside, I do not mean to imply that left- handers are just like right-handers. There are important differ- ences. Left-handers are generally less lateralized than right- handers (lateralization means the degree to which specific functions are carried out almost exclusively by one hemisphere). For example, left-handers more frequently process language in bot/2 hemispheres and process spatial information in bot/.7 hemi- spheres than do right—handers. Specifically, language is mediated in the left hemisphere in 90 percent of right—handers and 70 percent of left-handers. Of the remaining 10 percent of right- handers, about 2 percent have language located in the right brain, and about 8 percent mediate language in both hemi- spheres. Of the remaining 30 percent of left-handers, about 15 percent have language located in the right brain, about 15 per- cent mediate language in both hemispheres. (Note that individu- als with right-hemisphere language location—termed right-hemi- Spbere dominance, since language always dominates—often write in the “hooked” position that seems to cause teachers so much dismay. This indicates that hand position in writing is another Outward sign of brain organization.) D0 these differences matter? Individuals vary so much that generalizations are risky. Nevertheless, experts agree in general that a mixture of functions in both hemispheres (that is, a lesser degree of lateralization) creates the potential for conflict or inter- ference. It is true that left-handers statistically are more prone to stutter and to experience the reading difficulty called dyslexia. OWfEVer, other experts suggest that bilateral distribution of V e:n°t‘_ons may produce superior mental abilities. Left-handers c eel “1 mathematics, music, and chess. And the history of art , ertamly glves evidence of an advantage for left-handedness: l Onardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Picasso were all ' eft'handed. 39 Former United States Vice- President Nelson Rockefeller, a changed left-hander, had difficulty reading prepared speeches because of a tendency to read backward from right to left. The cause of this difficulty may have been his father’s unrelenting effort to change his son’s left-handedness. “Around the family dinner table, the elder Mr. Rockefeller would put a rubber band around his son‘s left wrist, tie a long string on it and jerk the string whenever Nelson started to eat with his left hand, the one be naturally favored.” —@oted in Tbe Left-Handem’ Handbook J. Bliss and J. Morella Eventually, young Nelson capitulated and achieved a rather awkward ambidextrous compromise, but he suffered the consequences of his father’s rigidity throughout his lifetime. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain A Comparison of Left-Mode and Right-Mode Characteristics — MODE — MODE Verbal: Using words to name, describe, de— Nonverbal: Awareness of things, but minimal fine. connection with words. Analytic: Figuring things out step-by-step Synthetic: Putting things together to form and part—by-part. wholes. Symbolic: Using a symbol to stand for some- Concrete: Relating to things as they are, at thing. For example, the drawn form <.> the present moment. stands for eye, the sign + stands for the process of addition. Abstract: Taking out a small bit of informa— Analogic: Seeing likenesses between things; tion and using it to represent the whole understanding metaphoric relationships. thing. Temporal: Keeping track of time, sequencing Nontemporal: Without a sense of time. one thing after another: Doing first things first, second things second, etc. Rational: Drawing conclusions based on reason Nonrational: Not requiring a basis of reason and facts. or facts; willingness to suspend judgment. Digital: Using numbers as in counting. Spatial: Seeing where things are in relation to other things, and how parts go together to form a whole. Logical: Drawing conclusions based on logic: Intuitive: Making leaps of insight, often based one thing following another in logical order on incomplete patterns, hunches, feelings, —- for example, a mathematical theorem or or visual images. a well—stated argument. Linear: Thinking in terms of linked ideas, one Holistic: Seeing whole things all at once; per- thought directly following another, often ceiving the overall patterns and structures, leading to a convergent conclusion. often leading to divergent conclusions. 4O Your Brain Does left-handedness, then, improve a person’s ability to gain access to right-hemisphere functions such as drawing? From my observations as a teacher, I can’t say that I have noticed much difl’erence in ease of learning to draw between left- and right- handers. Drawing came very easily to me, for example, and I am extremely right-handed—though, like many people, I have some right/left confusion, perhaps indicating a few bilateral func- tions. (A person with right / left confusion is one who says “Turn left,” while pointing right.) But there is a point to be made here. The process of learning to draw creates quite a lot of mental conflict. It’s possible that left-handers are more used to that kind of conflict and are therefore better able to cope with the discom- fort it creates than are fully lateralized right-handers. Clearly, much research is needed in this area. Some art teachers recommend that right—handers shift the pencil to the left hand, presumably to have more direct access to R—mode. I do not agree. The problems with seeing that prevent individuals from being able to draw do not disappear simply by changing hands; the drawing is just more awkward. Awkward- ness, I regret to say, is viewed by some art teachers as being more creative or more interesting. I think this attitude does a disser- vice to the student and is demeaning to art itself. We do not view awkward language, for instance, or awkward science as being more creative and somehow better. A small percentage of students do discover by trying to draw With the left hand that they actually draw more proficiently that Way. On questioning, however, it almost always comes to light that the student has some ambidexterity or was a left—hander Who had been pressured to change. It would not even occur to a true right-hander like myself (or to a true left-hander) to draw With the less-used hand. But on the chance that a few of you may discover some previously hidden ambidexterity, I encourage you to try both hands at drawing, then settle on whichever hand feels the most comfortable. — MODE —— MODE 41 Sigmund Freud, Hermann von Helmholtz, and the German poet Schiller were afflicted with right/left confusion. Freud wrote to a friend: “I do not know whether it is obvious to other people which is their own or other’s right or left. In my case, I had to think which was my right; no organic feeling told me. To make sure which was my right hand I used quickly to make a few writing movements.” ——Sigmund Freud Tbe Origins of Psychoanalyri: A less august personage had the same problem: Pooh looked at his two paws. He knew that one of them was the right, and he knew that when you had decided which one of them was the right, that the other one was the left, but he never could remember how to begin. “Well,” he said slowly . . . A. A. Milne The House at Pooh Corner Psychologist Charles T. Tart, discussing alternate states of consciousness, has said, “Many meditative disciplines take the view that . . . one possesses (or can develop) an Observer that is highly objective with respect to the ordinary personality. Because it is an Observer that is essentially pure attention/awareness, it has not characteristics of its own.” Professor Tart goes on to say that some persons who feel that they have a fairly well-developed Observer “feel that this Observer can make essentially continuous observations not only within a particular d-SoC (discrete state of consciousness) but also during the transition between two or more discrete states.” —Charles T. Tart “Putting the Pieces Together” “In prose, the worst thing one can do with words is to surrender to them. When you think of a concrete object, you think wordlessly, and then, if you want to describe the thing you have been visualizing, you probably hunt about till you find the exact words that seem to fit it. When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one’s meaning clear as one can through pictures or sensations." —George Orwell “Politics and the English Language” Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain a In the chapters to follow, I will address the instructions to right-handers and thus avoid tedious repetition of instructions specifically for left-handers, with no intention of the “handismn that left-handers know so well. SETTING UP THE CONDITIONS FOR THE L—>R SHIFT The exercises in the next chapter are specifically designed to cause a mental shift from L-mode to R-mode. The basic assump_ tion of the exercises is that the nature of the task can influence which hemisphere will be in control and “take on” the job while inhibiting the other hemisphere. As I said, scientists postulate that the hemispheres either alternate being “on”——an “on” condi. tion in one hemisphere causing an “off” condition in the other~ or they are both “on,” but with one hemisphere controlling the action (the overt behavior). But the question is, what factors determine which hemisphere will be “on” and/or controlling? Through studies with animals, split-brain patients, and in- dividuals with intact brains, scientists believe that the control question may be decided mainly in two ways. One way is speed: which hemisphere gets to the job the quickest? A second way is motivation: which hemisphere cares most or likes the task the best? And conversely: which hemisphere cares least and likes the job the least? Since drawing a perceived form is largely a right-brain func- tion, we must keep the left brain out of it. Our problem is that the left brain is dominant and speedy and is very prone to rush in with words and symbols, even taking over jobs which it is not good at. The split brain studies indicated that the left brain likes to be boss, so to speak, and prefers not to relinquish tasks to its dumb partner unless it really dislikes the job—either because the job takes too much time, is too detailed or slow or because the left brain is simply unable to accomplish the task. That’s exactly what we need—tasks that the dominant left brain will turn down. The exercises that follow are designed to present the brain with a task that the lefi hemisphere either can ’t or won ’t do. 42 ...
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Your Brain - Ch 3 part 2 of 2 - Your Brain INFORMATION...

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