Foundational Principle for this Conversation: To explore how brain lateralization both influences our thinking and strategizes and is influenced by it as well.
Definition: Right Brain Thinking – A broad characterization of thought patterns attributed to the right cerebral hemisphere of the brain. Right brain thinking is described broadly as non-linear, creative and imaginative.
Left Brain Thinking – A broad characterization of thought patterns attributed to the left cerebral hemisphere of the brain. Left-brain thinking is described broadly as being linear, sequential, systematic and concerned with the details and steps that are involved in a particular process or event.
STUDENT: How did the entire concept of left-brain/right-brain thinking arise?
LEWIS: Researchers theorized that the structure of the brain and the function of the brain and mind indicate that the two sides of the central hemisphere of the brain control different styles or “modes” of thought and that an individual will prefer one style to the other.
STUDENT: Before we even explore the distinctions between right and left brain thinking can you define what a thought is?
LEWIS: Thought is essentially the systematic joining together of words and symbols to communicate an idea.
STUDENT: Is thought automatic?
LEWIS: Yes. Without thought we have no connection with the world and this reality. In order to survive we must be part of some community. In order to have communion with others, a person must communicate – share ideas with others.
STUDENT: Can you define the difference between left and right brain thinking beyond what you present as definitions at the beginning of this lesson?
LEWIS: Remember that the concept of right/left brain thought is a combination of provable science and various evolving theories. (See the Lesson: Paradigms and the Lesson: Social Paradigms). When speaking of left-brain thinking you are dealing with thought that is logical, specific, rational and systematic rather than intuitive, sequential rather than random, and analytical, especially concerning data rather than holistic (oriented towards a synthesis of various pieces of data into a larger “whole”). An extension of this concept of left-brain vs. right-brain is how we process information. Left-brain thinking is concerned more with the parts of any system while a right-brain thinker is concerned with the whole formed from those parts.
STUDENT: Would most forms of technology be a reflection of left-brain or right-brain thinking?
LEWIS: Technology, especially computer technology, is left-brain-driven. By definition, technology is the practical application of knowledge, especially in a particular area. However, one of the things that make the products of the Apple Computer Corporation unique is that they had a vision to make certain products “more intuitive” to use. This intuitive factor is a right-brain function.
STUDENT: You have written in many of the lessons in the Harrison Mentoring Process about systems, logic, paradigms and rationality. Where does intuition fit in all of this?
LEWIS: The link between intuition and concepts as varied as multi-valued logic and fuzzy logic, social paradigms and the social world, is through a concept known as tacit knowing. (See the Lesson: Knowledge).
STUDENT: Tacit knowing?
LEWIS: Tacit knowing is a type of untapped subjective awareness, a process that is the essential personal component of knowing and knowledge and which cannot be systematized in the way that objective information might.
STUDENT: Does all of this connect in any way to left-brain and right-brain thinking?
LEWIS: Yes. In the process of making important decisions, we use tacit knowing as a combination of emotionally and intuitively driven processes (known as right-brain thinking) with rationally and logically (known as left brain thinking) driven processes. Most people are hard-wired to favor one style or the other, however you can’t realistically function in the world without utilizing both right-brain and left-brain thinking.
STUDENT: How can we know whether we are more left-brain oriented or right-brain oriented in our thinking?
LEWIS: With the exception of visionaries and certain types of artists, most of us would like to believe that we think logically. Left-brain thinking seems more systematic than right-brain thinking. Most of us want to be understood by others (See the Lesson: Community) and the more systematic we are the easier it is for others to recognize patterns in our behavior that they can relate to. Even so, we are all naturally inclined towards emotional and intuitive right-brain thinking.
STUDENT: Why is it so?
LEWIS: We are hard-wired to be creative and it is in the right brain that artistic creativity and the visionary process develops. You might say your authentic, primal self lies in the right brain (See the Lesson: Creativity and the Harrison Process and the Level: Becoming a Visionary).
STUDENT: Is there a way to smoothly integrate left-brain and right-brain thinking?
LEWIS: Under normal circumstances the left and the right sides of the brain process information differently, but function harmoniously – integrating information from the various five physical senses and through intuition.
Albert Ellis (who I had the honor of meeting a few years before his passing away) was a pioneering psychologist who applied the concept of rationality to psychotherapy through a process he created, known as “Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy”. In this approach, the term “rational” is used in a slightly different way than in general. Here rationality is defined contextually (See the Lesson: Form and Content) as the constructive tendency (a positive pattern) that humans have to emote, think and act, in ways that are realistic, alternative-seeking, flexible and most importantly self-and-social-helping. This tendency is invaluable in helping humans in actualizing the visions, and achieving their desires, and their personal and social goals.