Left-Right Brain Discussion

Figure 1. Decision-making components compared across prefrontal portion of corpus callosum

On Quora, a person recently asked what is the difference between how the left and right brain operate? And which occupations are best for them?

In the spirit of the question, I answered.

Here are a few ideas that might get you started on understanding the relationship between the right and left hemisphere and overall thinking. Before I mention specific characteristics of each hemisphere, it’s essential to acknowledge that the hemispheres are not completely isolated. They share information periodically as sensory information moves forward with integration of memory and learned knowledge.

Corpus Callosum

The corpus callosum connects the two cortical hemispheres 200 million times, linking the cortical mass of 15 billion neurons. With a very broad brush, we can say that there is a comparison (with the opportunity for either side to replace its current neural summary with that of the other hemisphere) every 75 neural steps.

Figure 1. Decision-making components compared across prefrontal portion of corpus callosum
Figure 1. Decision-making components compared across prefrontal portion of corpus callosum

Dominant Hemisphere

The dominant hemisphere that generates language (typically the left hemisphere) uses verbal categories to arrange sensory inputs and their subsequent processing.

  • Words allow the use of logic.
  • Thoughts follow by inferential relationships.
  • Humans have developed the dominant hemisphere to address non-immediate situations, i.e. goals, fears, and future needs.
  • The frontal lobe of this hemisphere can conceive of situations that do not yet exist. Situations in which an intermediate action which make the future desire more likely.

Non-Dominant Hemisphere

The non-dominant hemisphere (typically the right) uses patterns in information as its elements of thought.

  • Thoughts are linked together by association, i.e. similarities in features sufficient to cause both thoughts to surmount the same Almost Gate.
  • For humans, the non-dominant hemisphere has evolved to specialize in responding immediately to situations that demand it. Prime examples are danger and sports.

In Daily Life

Although the hemispheres seamlessly work together, people—by virtue of different genetics and different life experiences—often develop a preference for linguistic thoughts or patterns of association. That plays into their preference for either immediate satisfaction or delayed gratification.

Left-Right Dual Process Two thought streams, constantly syncing
Cognition: All We Can Think Building blocks of thought

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