Cognitive Science for Learning

A quick Google search of “right/left brain” brings up a host of articles debunking the idea that people use predominantly either the left or right side of their brain, and that an individual is either creative or logical based on their brainedness.  This is an interesting concept, given the number of individuals I am personally acquainted with who are both logical and creative.

I have always found the concept of creativity fascinating.  I recall one instance where a friend and I were marveling at the creative genius and skill that went into a painting. “I could never paint something like that,” she said.  That conversation got me thinking about creativity and I had another conversation with another friend, a writer.  She talked about how challenging it is to write good material, and how difficult it is to motivate herself.  She said that if she doesn’t set aside a specific time each day to brainstorm and create, she doesn’t maintain the discipline necessary to produce good, creative writing.

As I pondered these discussions, I started to wonder whether creativity was indeed as spontaneous as the average person thinks, or whether it is simply a product of motivation and drive!  I cannot paint, and I will never consider myself an artist when it comes to drawing; however, I do not have the interest in learning techniques and practicing the necessary skills.  I play the violin, and more than once a friend has commented “oh you’re so lucky that you have such natural skill.”  I have played for many years, and practiced countless pieces of music countless times!


The theory of right-brain dominance versus left-brain dominance has been shown to be inaccurate, and that instead the entire brain is generally used for neural processes.  There may be more activity in one specific areas of the brain, however that has not been shown to support the idea that specific types of people use one side of their brain more dominantly (Nielson, Zielinski, Ferguson, Lainhart & Anderson, 2013).

In preparing for instruction, I think the most significant impact this research will have on my teaching and mentoring skills is in situations where students say something like “I’m just not very good at this subject.”  While natural skills, abilities and personality traits may impact the ease with which someone learns something, these areas are not what explicitly determine whether someone can develop skills in a particular area.  Knowing this, I can practice discussing this issue with students and research how to guide students to a better understanding of how to improve their skills through discipline, the development of internal motivation, and goal-setting.


Left brain right brain [online image]. (2016). Retrieved July 3, 2016 from

Nielsen, J.A., Zielinski, B.A., Ferguson, M.A., Lainhart, J.E. & Anderson, J.S. (2013). An evaluation of the left-brain vs. right-brain hypothesis with resting state functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging. PLOS One. Retrieved from

Tatera, K. (2015, November 11). Left-brained vs. right-brained? Myth debunked. The Science Explorer. Retrieved from


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