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Determining right/left brain dominance

The idea of contrasting pairs of things is an idea that seems as old as the beginning of recorded human thought.  Good is contrasted with evil, body with soul, emotion with intellect, and that sort of thing.

The wisest among humankind have always been convinced that we have two natures, two distinct modes of consciousness, two independent and sometimes conflicting personalities.  Scientists are now discovering that perhaps they were right.  The human brain is indeed divided into a right hemisphere and a left hemisphere.  Recent researchers have become convinced that each of these hemispheres functions as an independent brain.  In effect, we have more than just one brain.  We have at least two brains, a left brain and a right brain.  Each seems to have its own specific way of influencing us psychologically.

Consider a commonly heard expression like, "I'm in two minds about that." This expression may be accurately describing something really going on inside our heads, in our two hemispheres, each with its own needs, desires, skills and talents, seeking to interpret the world outside in its own unique way.

For most of us, one hemisphere or the other dominates our personalities.  One hemisphere may exert more power over the other and mold us in its image.  This psychograph is meant to help you find out which hemisphere holds sway in your head and personality.  You will be told some of the distinct characterisitics of each "brain" after you answer the questions.  We don't want to bias your responses; so we can't outline those characteristics.

Researchers began probing this eerie duality of the human brain in 1961 after Los Angeles surgeons performed an operation to cure epilepsy in a 48 years old war veteran (known in the scientific literature only by his initials, "W.J.").  The procedure involved severing the corpus callosum, which connects the brain hemispheres.  The corpus callosum contains millions of nerve cells and acts like a cable over which the left and right brains exchange messages.  It also sends epileptic impulses from one half of the brain to the other.  If it is severed, the intensity of a patient's seizures are greatly diminished.

The operation did wonders for W.J.'s epilepsy, and he began to live a relatively normal life.  Yet, wierd things began to happen.  When he became angry with his wife, he found that one of his hands would reach out to grasp her while the other hand tried to protect her.  Some days he would be pulling on his pants with one hand while the other struggled to take them off.  Needless to say, this sort of behavior aroused interest among brain researchers.  At the California Institute of Technology and The University of Chicago, psyhobiologist Roger Sperry and others began to study W.J. and other epileptics who had undergone the operation.

It has now become clear that the left and right brains have minds of their own.  Each receives all the information that comes in through the eyes and ears, and each uses that information to act independently of the other.  While normal people don't exhibit the bizzare behavior of the "split-brained" patients, a startling separateness still exists.  Using an electroencephalograph to trace brain waves, psychologists have found that when we write letters, our left brain takes charge while the right hemisphere relaxes and drifts into a trance state.  But when we draw pictures, the right brain shifts into gear while the left hemisphere nods off.

After taking this psychograph, you may have an idea of which brain hemisphere dominates your personality.  That knowledge and 40 cents will get you a cup of coffee these days.  But that knowledge can also give you a clearer view of yourself; that's never a bad investment.



The following are what psychologists call "forced choice" questions.  There are only two possible answers to each question and you must choose one of them even if you don't think either is appropriate.  Pick the answer that is more likely to apply to your behavior.  There are no right or wrong answers.  Complete the psychograph quickly.  Your first response to a question is likely to be the most honest.

1. Which of the following statements is more characteristic of you?

a) I'm a tense person; I worry about getting things right; I'm more nervous than most people

b) I'm relaxed and easygoing; you can't fight life, so you may as well roll with the punches

2. Do you get depressed a lot?

a) Yes

b) No

3. Think about the music you like.  Would you way that (a) the beat or (b) the melody is more important to you?

4. If you were learning a new skill, which of the following ways of acquiring knowledge would appeal to you more?

a) reading books and attending lectures on the subject

b) an "experience oriented" approach consisting of field trips, workshops, lab work, and apprenticeship

5. If you were in college, which of these two majors would you select?

a) art

b) math

6.  Which of these games would you rather play?

a) scrabble

c) checkers

7. Which statement more accurately describes your behavior?

a) I'm an impulse buyer; when I want something, I get it even if I can't afford it

b) I'm a deliberate shopper; I think about something Before I buy it.  Sometimes I wait so long that what I want is sold out by the time I decide to buy it.  I often talk myself out of things I first thought I wanted.

8. Are you often unsure of your grammar?

a) yes

b) no

9. When you learn something new, how does the process usually work?

a) I flounder around until suddenly a light goes on and I get the knack of it; understanding seems to come all at once, as if a curtain had been lifted or a door opened

b) I work gradually, learning one aspect at a time; eventually I begin to understand all the pieces and can put the whole picture together

10. If you had to solve a problem, which would you choose?

a) a crossword puzzle

b) a jigsaw puzzle

11. Do you often have hunches?

a) yes

b) no

12. If you could do only one or the other, would you rather

a) read a book?

b) see a movie?

13. Do you often have trouble putting your feelings and opinions into words; do you have trouble expressing what you really mean?

a) yes

b) no

14. If you have to park a car parallel to the curb, do you a) usually get it right the first time

b) usually have to pullout at least once and try another time

15. If you were taking a trip and someone were giving you directions would you prefer that he

a) write down the directions, listing the route numbers, turnoffs and landmarks in order

b) show you the route on a map

16. When you're choosing clothes, are you likely to select

a) fabrics with a lot of texture, such as leather, suede, thick wools, silk shirts, corduroy

b) relatively understated fabrics, such as cottons and normal weight suits

17. Do you remember faces well?

a) yes

b) no

18. Do you remember people's names well?

a) yes

b) no

19. With which of the following statements would you be more likely to agree?

a) there are many things that science will never be able to explain

b) there's a natural law that governs everything; therefore, science should eventually by able to explain things that at first appear to be mysteries

20. Are you a better-than-average athlete?

a) yes

b) no



Of the two answers to each question, one is more likely to be chosen by a left-brained person and the other by a right-brained person.  Left-brain choices here are indicated by L, right-brain choices by R.  Check your answers against this key and then add of your total numbers of L and R Responses

1. (a) L (b) R 11. (a) R (b) L

2 (a) R (b) L 12. (a) L (b) R

3. (a) L (b) R 13. (a) R (b) L

4. (a) L (b) R 14. (a) R (b) L

5. (a) R (b) L 15. (a) L (b) R

6. (a) L (b) R 16. (a) R (b) L

7. (a) R (b) L 17. (a) R (b) L

8. (a) R (b) L 18. (a) L (b) R

9. (a) R (b) L 19. (a) R (b) L

10. (a) L (b) R 20. (a) R (b) L

This psychograph does not break down into precise scoring categories.  Brain research is too new a science to have devised any definitive, or predictive tests.  However, large amounts of data have been gathered and it is this research that enables us to lay out some guidelines and make some educated judgements.  You should therefore think of your answers as indicators of probability.

If you chose 13 or more L answers, it is probable that your brain's left hemisphere exerts the dominant force on your personality.  If you chose 13 or more R answers, it is most likely that the right brain dominates.  If you ended up with a relative balance between your L and R answers (that is, if you didn't score more than 12 or fewer than 8 in either category), you are in a special middle group below in the balanced brain section.


The left cerebral hemisphere's skills are those that, at least since the Renaissance, have been most favored by Western Civilization.  It is analytical, rational and practical. People dominated by the left brain do not long for a mystical union with the cosmos; they just want the facts, ma'am!  Because the left brain is almost entirely responsible for all human verbal skills, people in this category tend to be good conversationalists and writers.  In fact, when a split-brained patient talks, it's his left brain alone that is speaking to you.  Information contained in the right brain cannot be expressed in words, since that hemisphere has the approximate linguistic ability of a three or four years old child.

Most technocrats, scientists, mathematicians, computer experts are left brained.  So are lawyers.  They use the hemisphere's logic ability to assemble bits of disparate information into a coherent whole.  Because they combine linguistic and logical abilities so well, people in this category are often brilliant and witty.  But, others come across as driven, nervous and fanatically single-minded.  Ralph Nader, for instance, is a classic left-brain man.  He is devoted to a single goal and allows virtually no outside interests to interfere.


People dominated by their right brains tend to be intuitive and emotional.  They take a Holistic approach to life; they sense things all at once and don't like to get bogged down in details.  They see the gestalt of things, instinctively absorbing the subtle connections and relationships that make up their sphere of consciousness.  There is considerable evidence that creativity is centered in the right brain.  So is spatial perception.  Consequently, most artists are right-brain people. 

Even science at its most creative levels seems to be right brain, according to Einstein's statement when he said that most of his important discoveries came to him as images, in pictures, not words.  Only after he had the inspiration, did he go back and let his left brain work out the linguistic and mathematical descriptions of his discoveries.

Right brain people also have a deep-seated musical sense.  Alexander Luria of Moscow's Burdenko Institute (he is one of the world's most famous brain specialists) once treated a patient, a composer, whose left hemisphere had been incapacitated by a stroke.  The man couldn't say a word, but with his unaffected right brain he went on composing as well as before.  The exception to this rule is the professional musician.  Rather than creating music, he must have extreme technical competence in order to reproduce it accurately.  Therefore, he is likely to be left brained. 

For him, music is not inspiration or melody but a line of notes, a language, to be put in order by his left brain.  Right brained people are also more easily hypnotized.  As a group they are more athletic.  They are also people who can remember your face but not your name.  The face, being an object in space, is remembered by the right brain.  The name, a linguistic construct, is stored in the left brain and thus is not so easily retrieved by the right-brained people.  People in this category make good Californians;they tend to be laid back and mellow.  But their passivity can sometimes disintegrate into withdrawal and depression.


Between the two extremes described above are people whose personalities blend the characteristics of both brain hemispheres.  They are nice folks to be around, since they are not likely to exhibit either the extreme single-mindedness of the left-

brained types or the terminal hollowness of some right-brainers.  Depending upon your career, this will never let the other dominate, neither brain is likely to achieve the full exercise of its talents.  yet that limitation may prove a boon in fields that require the skills of the middle-man or the mediator.  True, you may never be a great writer, but you may make a hell of an editor.  You may not be a great artist, but you may make a smashing success as a gallery owner.  You may not be able to design computers, but you may be able to sell them very well.  Your ability to match names with faces could be the basis for a promising political career.

One last thing; you should be great at charades, given the balance you have between your right brain, which gives you the manual dexterity, and your left brain, with its linguistic abilities.  If you are ever offered a job as a professional charades player, take it - you should go far!