Right-brain teaching is half-witted

Educational tools claiming to use ‘right-brain techniques’ are based on scientifically unsound beliefs says La Trobe University’s Dr Annukka Lindell, School of Psychological Sciences.

child-learningA new paper published in the September 2011 issue of the Mind, Brain, Education journal questions educational tools directed at ‘half-brain thinking’, the belief that the right-brain is creative while the left-brain is academic.

Educators and parents hoping to shape a child’s learning through directed teaching of one side of the brain are misguided; both hemispheres of the brain are vital for creativity, and are involved in everything we do.

‘The idea that your right hemisphere is creative and your left hemisphere is more logical or intelligent is what we call a neuromyth,’ Dr Lindell says. ‘It was debunked in the psychological literature over thirty years ago, so while a popular belief, it is patently false.’

Former La Trobe researcher Dr Evan Kidd, now at the University of Manchester, believes the source of the neuromyth is based on research in the 1960s.

‘Patients suffering epilepsy who were unresponsive to medication were given an operation where the two sides of their brain were surgically separated. Each side of the brain is functionally isolated and in those people there are some really markedly different processes. But obviously if you’re inferring from these findings to a normal brain, there are going to be some problems.’

Dr Lindell warns that educators and parents need to be aware of a range of educational tools, text books, and even a Nintendo DS game purporting to train the left and right hemispheres.

‘The fact is that if it’s called ‘right-brain training’ but there’s no evidence to show that it selectively improves right brain function, then it’s misleading. These products are not supported by research.’

The authors suggest that educators and educational institutions interpret neuro-claims cautiously ‘We recommend a more balanced approach, one that relies on methods that have been validated by rigorous independent research rather than programs based on pseudoscience.’

An audio podcast interview with Dr Annukka Lindell is available

Dr Annukka Lyndell

Phone: +61 3 9479 2708

Email: a.lindell@latrobe.edu.au

Matt Smith
Media and Communications
+61 3 9479 5513
Email: matthew.smith@latrobe.edu.au