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Creativity Is Both Right Brain and Left Brain

There’s a myth floating around out there that the right hemisphere of the brain is the sole keeper of creativity.

This idea comes from old research on the “science of creativity,” as well as a general misunderstanding of the findings of such research. Because it turns out, creativity is both right brain and left brain in nature.

In fact, based on newer research, it’s safe to say that probably every human trait is doing business in both hemispheres. And the way the two hemispheres relate with one another determines how demonstrative these traits will be from person to person.

So how did the myth of the creative person as completely right-brained bloom?

Inaccuracy of Early Studies

Back in the 1960s, a last ditch effort treatment for patients who suffered severe epilepsy was to cut the bundle of fibers – called the corpus callosum  – that connected the hemispheres of their brains.

Researchers and psychologists at the time wanted a deeper understanding of the hemispheres. So they took advantage of this radical treatment to study these split brains.

The studies consisted of their presenting stimuli to each hemisphere. What they uncovered was that each hemisphere of the brain acted like an independent entity. And the way the right hemisphere processed information differed from how the left brain did.

Boom! The myth of the right brain being creative and left brain being logical was born. And to some extent, there is truth in this.

The big problem with these studies is that they didn’t take into account that healthy people didn’t have their corpus callosum snapped. Therefore, the spheres are connected.

And that because of this connection, the right brain and left brain have evolved over time to operate together and share information with one another.

Understanding how the right brain and left brain dance with one another is what makes today’s neuroscientists tick.

The Myth of Right Brain Creativity

The early studies can’t be completely ruled out though. After all, they did set something of a foundation.

Research from those studies demonstrated that there IS a difference between the hemispheres. In general, activities that require spatial reasoning and appreciation of beauty stimulate the right hemisphere. Meanwhile, activities which require more analytical thinking light up the left side.

Today, it’s still widely accepted in scientific circles that for most people, the right brain is dominant for more abstract actions like emotional processing and empathizing. Meanwhile, the left brain is implicated more strongly in actions that are concrete and logical – such as language.

But take it one step further and you’ll find that it’s the right hemisphere that has a hand in the intonation and emphasis of HOW language is expressed. So the distinctions are not clear cut.

Still, humans love to categorize and put themselves in boxes. And there has always been something so seductively simple about the whole creative right brain, logical left brain myth.

In fact, it’s OVER simplified. And even as science has began to shed light on the more complicated truth, people still resisted letting go of the myth.

Creativity is Both Right Brain and Left Brain

So is logical thinking.

Scientists now understand that both creativity and logical thinking – as well as just about every other activity in which we partake – are actually whole-brained ventures. 

Think about it. To the listener, music sounds like pure emotion intuitively delivered through an instrument. All of that emotional connection and improvisation sounds like a right brain endeavor, right?

But the musician must also practice through repetitive drills and memorization in order to create that music. And these tend to be more connected with the left brain.

On the flip side, you may easily assume that buying a house is a left brain leaning activity of doing cost analyses and making logical decisions. It’s all very reasonable.

But reason relies on emotion. The house you choose is going to be just as based on your emotional responses. Once again, we’re crossing back and forth over that delightful corpus callosum bridge.

So it’s the whole package. In the case of the brain, the left hand actually knows what the right hand is doing. And they work together.

Arts Integration Education Is Born of This Understanding

It’s very romantic to think that creativity is all about spontaneity and shimmering brilliance. It isn’t. There’s plenty of behind-the-scenes work that has to be addressed.

Among other things, creativity requires imagination, as well as the ability to make contributions, reconfigure existing ideas, or/and solve problems in a new but useful way. And these require study and discipline.

By helping students learn topics like math or science through art, this model of education strives to make learning a whole-brained experience while appealing to students who are just more naturally inclined toward expressing themselves creatively.

Conversely, arts integrated educators aim to help students understand what it takes to thrive creatively in their artistic field(s) as well by teaching them to strike the perfect balance between skill and spontaneity.

By learning these habits that allow their brains’ two hemispheres to freely communicate, students are more likely to thrive as creative problem-solvers when they enter the world at large.

And the world can never have too many creative problem-solvers.

Prepare for Possibilities

Understanding that creativity is both right brain and left brain has allowed for innovations in arts integration education.

And it has given students who are more creatively inclined an opportunity to excel.

If you’re ready to see how an arts integrated high school can help your child to expand and grow, contact us. We want to help your child to reach his or her full potential.


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