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Do You Use Your Left Brain or Right Brain?

This well-known series of words written in color is a simple test to demonstrate how we use different parts of our brain. It may also explain how you can improve your creative thinking.

Step 1

Read the words.

It’s easy, isn’t it? (Easy if you know how to read English.)

As reading is generally a left-brain activity, this exercise demonstrates that you are adept at using the left side of your brain.

Step 2

Say the colour of the word, not the word itself.

Easy?  Easy if you aren’t colour-blind.

Recognising colours is generally a right-brain activity. For many, this step isn’t easy. It suggests that you are less adept at using the right side of your brain.

Stroop Effect #1
Click #1 to View
Stroop Effect #2
Click #2 to View

Perhaps you are part of the 12% of the planet who can read either the word or the colour of the word with ease. If so, you are adept at using both left brain and right brain thinking.

Left? Right? What’s This Mean to You?

If you find reading the colour of the word difficult, don’t worry. Try reading the words again, or reading from bottom to top. It gets easier each time you try, doesn’t it? Like every other skill you’ve learnt in your life, creative thinking can be improved with repeated practice.

J. Ridley Stroop invented this exercise, called The Stroop Effectafter his research in experimental psychology. (“Studies of Interference in Serial Verbal Reactions, George Peabody College, 1935.) Even though his work gained scientific prominence, Stroop abandoned any further research in 1938 to pursue a life devoted to teaching, preaching and writing about the Bible.

Here’s a bit of history and my universal caveat to using left brain or right brain as terms.

Roger Sperry won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1981 for the concept of split-brain lateralisation. In other words, he brought the terms left brain and right brain into every-day use. I use these terms a lot, but with trepidation. Science repeatedly has shown people are not simply ‘left brained’ or ‘right brained.’  While certain functions are primarily controlled by one side – visual or grammatical abilities, for example – left or right brain thinking does not apply to every person in every case, just as people are not singularly strategic or creative.

How’d you do on the test? More to the point, is it true about how you use your brain?  Please add your comments and thoughts below.

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Do You Use Your Left Brain or Right Brain?

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