Chapter 1: Part 1 – Are the left and right brains really different?

Most of us know that the left and right brain functions are different. We are often told that the left brain is the logical brain, controlling logic, math, and language. The right brain, on the other hand, is the creative brain, controlling visual images, especially the ability to recognize faces. In addition, the right brain has a profound impact on spatial ability and musical ability.

This is not just hearsay. In fact, as early as the 18th century, European doctors discovered that when their patients had localized lesions in the left hemisphere of their brains, they could understand language but could hardly speak. The doctors referred to this patient by the code name “Tan,” one of the few words he could utter.

Subsequently, more and more research was conducted in this field. In the 1950s, a neuropsychologist named Roger Sperry and his student Michael Gazzaniga began testing so-called “split-brain” patients to try to find out which aspects of human thought each hemisphere of the brain was processing. This groundbreaking work eventually won Sperry the Nobel Prize in 1981 and Gazzaniga was later hailed as the “father of cognitive neuroscience.”

These studies confirmed that the functions of the left and right hemispheres of the brain are not completely symmetrical. Researchers use the technical term “lateralization of brain function” to describe this phenomenon.

In “The Right-Brained Organization,” we explore how this lateralization can be leveraged to create remarkable businesses that stand out from the crowd.

Image: Lateralization of brain function

The differences between the two sides of the brain are particularly evident when it comes to our senses and related behaviors. For example, the right brain receives visual information from the left optic nerve. Conversely, images seen by our right eye are first transmitted to the left brain. Therefore, in terms of vision, which side of the brain is the dominant decision-making brain has a decisive impact on first impressions.

Psychologists McManus and Humphrey from Cambridge University published a paper in Nature magazine in 1973. They studied 1474 Western European portraits from the 14th to 20th centuries and found that 891 portraits (about 60%) showed their left side, while only 583 portraits (about 40%) showed their right side. In other words, artists tend to present the left side of their portraits to us. Even more interestingly, they found that women were more likely to show their left side than men. Of the left-sided portraits, 68% of female portraits showed their left side, while only 56% of male portraits showed their left side

Image: Mona Lisa shows her left side

Painters are more willing to paint the left side because buyers prefer to see things in the left visual field. When people are facing each other, the left side of the portrait is seen by our left eye and transmitted to the right brain through the optic nerve. The right brain is more dominant in perceiving emotional information, so we are more likely to perceive emotional information from the left side.

However, some researchers believe that this is due to the emotions of the portrait owner themselves because the muscles on the left side of the face are controlled by the right brain and are often more likely to reflect emotions. There is no consensus on which explanation is more correct. In any case, painters are clearly catering to people’s brains. We obviously think that the left side will be more beautiful. So next time you take a photo, you know which way to turn your face slightly.

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