In an age where computers and well-trained workers from low-paid countries are taking over even white-collar jobs, what can you do to stand out? As we move out of the Information Age and into a new Conceptual Age, the answer is to start embracing the aptitudes associated with the right side of your brain, which were previously thought of as less valuable than analytical left-brain skills.
Since ancient times, people have assumed a division of the brain into a left and a right hemisphere, a neurological divide that has been supported by modern science.
While today we know that every activity we engage in requires cooperation between both the right and left hemisphere, we are also aware that each hemisphere takes the dominant role in certain activities. Generally, we can say that the left hemisphere focuses on breaking things into details, while the right hemisphere is in charge of providing the broader picture.
These differing roles can be seen, for instance, in the context of language use. Much of our language originates in the left hemisphere, where we process symbols in sequence (for example, when reading). However, the right hemisphere also plays an important role by allowing us to take a step back from the language itself and interpret the context of the message. Without our right cerebral hemisphere, we would not be able to understand irony or metaphors.
Reasoning is another area where the hemispheres have different, complementary roles:
Responses that originate from the left are derived from what we have learned in the past. If someone points a gun at you, it’s the left hemisphere that tells you to be alarmed because you have learned that guns are dangerous.
The right hemisphere, on the other hand, doesn’t recognize the gun, but it can draw on more intuitive knowledge and recognize other signs of danger, like an angry facial expression. The fact that all cultures tend to interpret facial expressions similarly illustrates how natural and intuitive these functions of the right hemisphere are.
We have always sought to understand which part of our brain is responsible for different activities. Today we know that although the two halves are constantly cooperating, they specialize in different ways of thinking.
Our brain has two parts: the left hemisphere for details and the right hemisphere for more holistic, big-picture thinking.