Left Brain and Right Brain: the Impact on Learning

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The idea that the right side of the brain and the left side of the brain have an impact on learning emanates from lateralization of the brain function. The corpus callosum separates the brain into two different hemispheres. The hemispheres possess bilateral symmetry in function and structure, but the symmetry is incomplete. Research is still going on to prove whether the left brain and right brain control different aspects of learning as current research findings are still questionable. All researchers have agreed that every individual has a preferred dominant side of the brain (Jensen, 2008) No one is completely right-brained or completely left-brained, but just as people have a dominant hand, a dominant foot, and even a dominant eye, each individual has a dominant side of the brain. When the learning process is stressful, difficult, or new individuals prefer to study in a particular way because the brain automatically switches to the dominant side.

What is the Left Brain-Right Brain Theory?

The Left Brain-Right Brain theory suggests that the two sides of the brain control distinct types of thinking. It further states that some people favor different types of thinking over others. Left-brained people are said to be more objective, analytical and logical while right-brained people are said to be more subjective, thoughtful, and intuitive (Williams, 2011). The theory is psychologically based on a concept known as brain function lateralization. The theory was developed out of the research of Roger W. Sperry who won the 1981 Nobel Prize. He was researching on the impact of epilepsy when he discovered that by splitting the corpus callosum (Structure that links the right and left the side of the brain) into two, seizures could be minimized or eliminated (Springer $ Deutsch, 1998).

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He further discovered that after cutting the corpus callosum, patients experienced other effects. Many of them were able to name objects controlled by the left side of the brain but were unable to name objects controlled by the right side of the brain. Based on the observations, Sperry concluded that language was processed by the left side of the brain (Williams, 2011). Research has proved that the brain is not as dichotomous as Sperry suggested and some subjects are best tackled by the whole brain.

Left Brain Learning

The left brain excels in tasks which involve language, analysis, and logic. It is, thus, better at processing aspects such as reasoning, numbers, critical thinking, logic, and language. The left side processes language in sequential and logical order (Wonder & Donovan, 2009). Information in the left side is processed in a linear order from partial information to the full information. The left side collects information, arranges it logically, analyzes it and the reaches a conclusion. Predominantly left-brained learners understand information very quickly. They do not have to read ahead because they can follow the instructions step by step and arrive at a logical conclusion. Due to the fact that the left brain processes the information sequentially, left-brained persons learn effectively through lists and outlines. Planning works best for left-brained people since they take pleasure in arranging (Williams, 2011). Tasks that require sequencing such as spelling are also relatively easy for them. Left-brained students excel in Science, Mathematics and analytical essays.

Right Brain Learning

The left brain-right brain theory suggests that the right side of the brain is more efficient in creative and expressive tasks. It controls aspects such as creativity, intuition, images, color, reading emotions, music, expressing emotions, and recognition of faces (Jensen, 2008). The right side is visual and processes phenomenon randomly, holistically, and intuitively. The right side processes information holistically in that it starts with the entire information and then divides the information into pieces. It seems all the facts first, but not the particular details. A right-brained learner must read the entire background information or chapter so as to understand what the information is about. Predominantly right-brained learners may have trouble outlining information in a step by step manner (Williams, 2011). The instructor must skim through the entire chapter for them to understand. The right-brain processes information in a random way and planning is a difficult task for right-brained people. Most of them work with deadlines since prioritizing tasks is difficult for them. Spelling and following directions are complex for them. Most right-brained people are poor in Mathematics because it requires logical analysis. Right-brained students excel in humanities, languages, and personal essays (Wonder & Donovan, 2009). They are very creative and most of them succeed in arts such as music, writing, and painting.

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Whole Brain Thinking

Later research found that functions of one side of the brain are closely replicated by the other side of the brain. There is no evidence that only one side of the brain is involved in a particular cognitive task (Springer & Deutsch, 1998). Their research found that even though one side of the brain may dominate certain cognitive processes, both sides must work together. The brain is a muscle and the more it is exercised, the more the learner can study and remember. Whole-brain learning is the best learning method because it encourages learners to utilize the functions controlled by their right brain and left brain (Jensen, 2008). The students who perform excellently in both academics and sports are those ones who have mastered the art of whole brain thinking. It promotes high-level thinking since it encourages students to be both creative and logical.


Understanding the dominant side of the brain can help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses in particular areas, and help you develop better methods of learning and studying. Self-help tests and popular psychology usually overstate or over-generalize the impact of the left brain-right brain theory on learning. It is up to the student to know their strong points and weak points and choose the most suitable learning method. If verbal instructions are problematic for the student, the student may choose auditory learning or any other beneficial learning method. If the student loses concentration easily, he or she may have to resort to visual learning using images and graphics.

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