Saturday, April 9, 2011
Mythos: Brain Power
How many of us have grown up with the “You only use 10% of your brain” (or any derivation thereof) myth? I know I have. From self-help books that boost memory to “quantumly” activating the other 90% to attain higher consciousness, all of these things that are mentioned in popular culture are dead wrong. Here’s why…
Firstly, I would like to point out that people say you only use 10% of your brain, but are very vague as to which 10% it is, or where it is located. Is it a certain spot? Is it spread across multiple spots? Is it a fuzzy area with percentages of usage going up and down depending on the contours of the brain? If any of these are true, then if I were to take a pickaxe and stab the 90% of your brain that you don’t use without remorse, you should still be able to function perfectly. Now…will you let me put my idea to the test? Didn’t think so.
Secondly, if indeed we were to postulate that 90% of our brain was not being used, why is it still there? In case you don’t know, your brain is a very costly organ to maintain and activate. Lots of energy goes into it. If 90% didn’t have to be used, evolution would have made our brains smaller and more efficient. The dead weight of the unused 90% would be gone. The result would be two types of humans—normal ones with smaller and more efficient brains, and blondes, who’s brains would not have shrunk because (let’s face it) they would end up without one at the rate that they use it. Ah…evolution.
Lastly (and probably the most popular one), the whole New Age movement has given more power to this myth by stating something that can be generalized into this: “You don’t understand, man. The 10% of the brain that we use isn’t actual brain…it’s consciousness, man. Tap into that extra 90% of your brain power and you can be…like…psychic. Connect with the universe, man!” Of course, this is…quite difficult to disprove. It just goes to show how myths change shape over time so that they may survive being demystified. The only thing that can be said is that there is no evidence whatsoever that this is how it works. Period. People can say all they want, but no evidence means no conclusive answer.
Besides, studies have shown that your brain is active all the time. There are always parts of the brain doing something related to your bodily functions, even when you are asleep (during REM sleep, your brain is immensely active)! As I sit here typing this, there are parts of my brain reading, typing, thinking about the next bit of gibberish I will spew, moving each of my fingers, breathing, pumping my heart, feeling my surroundings, recognizing smells, tensing and relaxing muscles to keep me in my chair, blinking, letting me know that there is a possible annoying itch on my back, trying to come up with funny things to say, hearing sounds from the outside, interpreting said sounds, and many, many, many, many more bodily processes. The whole thing is likely to have originated form a misinterpretation of something William James, a psychologist in the 1900s said: "The average person rarely achieves but a small portion of his or her potential." It is ridiculous, if not downright stupid, to believe that you only use 10% of your brain. Anyone that does is, well…probably only using 10% of their brain.