Tag Archives: right and left

The Right and Wrong of Right and Left

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Today’s chiroscope:

Dextro (for right-handed sorts)

The Sun moves into the Sky Sign of Dextro today, introducing a season of rationality, stringency, and organization. This is the time to count things, become a computer programmer, or sequence your dimes by mint date. Dextro energy tends to be static and analytical, filled with inflexibility and an obtuse lack of emotion.

Sinistro (for lefties)

Flighty tasks involving arts and crafts may occasion your attention today. Be expressive with your friends, who admire your musical abilities and inability to manage a schedule. Sinistros need surprises and should always be ready to go out dancing, draw a pretty picture, or cry at random.

It’s an amusing dichotomy, that left brain/right brain personality scheme. Instead of divvying people up amongst twelve categories, as is the case with astrology, we place them in one of two. Sure, the online quiz you just took declared you 60% left-brained and 40% right-brained, but what you take away is that you’re a left-brained person, whatever that means.

But what does it mean? And on a relate note: how does it relate to handedness?

The overwhelming assumption about right and left brain hemispheres asserts that the left brain is logical and sequential while the right is emotional and creative. Without getting off on too much of a tangent about logic and emotion, it doesn’t take the most captious nitpicker to detect the lack of semantic clarity in this assumption (who knows what creativity is, really?). So let’s get a bit more exact.

In 1975, Kaplan and Tenhouten described three socioculturally determined modes of thought: propositional, appositional, and dialectical. Propositional thought encompasses linear reasoning; solving a basic algebra problem by using a set of steps in sequence is a good example. Language proceeds in a necessarily linear fashion (saying two words simultaneously can pose quite a challenge), and is thus propositional as well. Appositional thought refers more to holistic, synthetic thought processes. The instinctive ability to recognize faces without actively measuring distances between features is one such example. And when these two modes of thought do a little jig together, dialectical thinking results.

Experimental findings on functional hemispheric specificity fall nicely into a model wherein left=propositional and right=appositional. In a majority of cases (more on the exceptions later), language is predominantly governed by the left hemisphere. By contrast, music, which requires far more holistic and therefore appositional processing (being able to discern chords as built up from individual pitches, for instance), largely resides in the right hemisphere. Emotional affect, as construed from holistic data like gestures in conjunction with vocal tone and facial expressions, also lies within the domain of the right hemisphere. As such, when we hear people speak, it is the left brain that assigns meaning to the words but the right brain that evaluates whether their speech is blathering, grievous, heartfelt, excited, gloomy, sarcastic, etc.

 

found on: http://letterstorob.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/dawson-crying.jpg

Dawson may tell you he's happy, but your right brain knows better.

However, don’t let this laterally weighted distribution of function convince you that things are completely clean-cut. Split brain, multilinguistic, and other studies have demonstrated that genetics, basic plasticity, developmental conditions, and so on can influence said dispersion in either symmetry or asymmetry-promoting ways. For example, people who acquire fluency in more than one language before the age or 6 (give or take a few months depending on the person) distribute their linguistic activation across both hemispheres equally. In general, it’s wise to bear in mind the yin and yang, overused as the image may be. Each hemisphere has a hand in the other’s business, sometimes even a whole arm.

Speaking of hands and arms (flawless transition, wouldn’t you say?), how’s about we dabble in the issue of limb dominance. While there are all kinds of interesting combinations of limb dominance–right-handed but left-armed, ambidexterous but left-footed, and so on–on the whole, humans (other other hominids, for that matter) tend to favor a side of their body. And side-favoring works contralaterally (the opposite side) for hemisphere preference. Now, bearing in mind lateralized dispersion of function isn’t clean-cut, think about a left-handed person you know. Perhaps you’re left-handed. And you’re reading this. And any left-handed people you know are likely able to read this as well. So you’re clearly able to comprehend language. While lefties generally favor their right hemisphere more than do righties, they have perfectly functional left hemispheres.

This may sound like a defensive stream of thought, and that’s because it is. The stigma of left-handedness is wrought with the negative connotations of being a “right-brained” person: that is, emotional, unreliable, disorganized, and mathematically challenged. In fact, leftness itself is wrought with negative functions just by association with left-handedness; historically, majority rule has cast lefties (a minority) as outcasts. By extension, such superstitions as a cat crossing your path towards the left indicating misfortune pop up, perfectly exemplifying leftness hate. The Supreme Court really ought to do something about this OUTRAGE.

Nah, not really. But the point is, lefties aren’t really all that statistically more likely to be emotional, unreliable, blah blah blah than anyone else. In fact, one of the only marked differences that comes to mind is that lefties have lower life expectancies than right-handed people because tools and machinery are usually designed with righties in mind, and freak accidents happen. Oh yeah, and they’re slightly more likely to be supergeniuses. And also, they have a minority advantage in sports; everyone is accustomed to playing against righties, and when lateral dominance comes into play, a lefty comes as a surprise.

 

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Medals of sensitivity should be awarded to the organic chemists responsible for designating left orientation to the types of chiral molecules found chiefly in the human body.

A last tidbit:

According to some recent studies, inhibitory colossal projections from the left hemisphere tend to dampen creative thought, as measured by the ability to analyze problems according to novel ideas instead of learned frameworks. While constant oblivion of standard analytical contingencies is probably not a great thing (it’s a good idea to bear “stop, drop, and roll” in mind in case of fire, for instance), optimal behaviors are probably products of dialectical, bilateral thought. Every situation is different, and organisms can respond to them to their greatest advantage if they analyze them with both knowledge and intuition.

The actual last tidbit:

Apparently, orgasms are coincident with hyperfusion of the right hemisphere. That’s some important stuff right there.