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10 Myths About the Human Brain

10 Myths About the Human Brain
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Recently, an infographic from journl.com was published illustrating the inaccuracy of the 10 most common myths about the human brain. It’s interesting to know that in an age where it’s important to understand the mechanics of success, we still embrace these myths. After all, learning how to utilize our brain power effectively is essential to attaining goals. The following myths are addressed in the infographic briefly. This articles goes a little more in depth.

It is time to stop believing false myths about our brains. Some can make a big difference in the way we perceive things and our overall success.

Myth #1: We Only Use 10% of Our Brains

This myth is the most commonly believed one so we will begin with it.

The myth most likely came from William James, an American psychologist in the early 1900s. When James was quoted while saying, “the average person rarely achieves but a small portion of his or her overall potential,” the quote was altered. First altered to,”10 percent of our capacity”, then further modified to “10 percent of our brains”. Even though we can scientifically prove that humans use more than 10 percent of their brains, this myth is believed true by many.

Myth #2: The Brain Declines as We Get Older

Some mental skills improve with age. Vocabulary, language comprehension, critical thinking, and emotional control are a few of the areas that continue to develop.

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Recent studies suggest that mindfulness is another way to increase brain function. Studies suggest that brain function improved in certain areas for study participants after an eight-week mindful based stress reduction program. Participants showed an increase in gray matter clusters controlling functions of emotion and social cognition. Studies suggest mindfulness may be useful in treating depression and post-traumatic stress disorders.

Myth #3: Brain Damage is Always Permanent

Although it is true that severe brain damages may never heal completely, functions enabled by the damaged portions can improve, and connections lost between neurons can reconnect.

The bottom line is that damaged neurons cannot grow back. However, damaged connections between the neurons eventually reconnect, reversing damage. When neurons are damaged, the brain can rewire to use other portions in performing the lost function. Functions such as speech may be handled by another part of the brain once that part can learn the function through therapeutic repetition.

Myth #4: The Brain is Hard-Wired

The truth is that brains can be re-wired. Therapy encourages new parts of the brain, not associated with a skill, to take over the performance when the associated part is unable. For example, the hearing of a blind person is enhanced when sight is not available. A stroke victim can speak by teaching an area not usually associated with performing the task to control speech.

Re-wiring your brain is also possible to change habits. Brains learn through repetitive actions. If you want to stop smoking, you can train your brain to stop sending the signals that make cravings unbearable. It just takes time and repetition to retrain your brain.

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Myth #5: Left-Brained People are Organized Right-Brained People are Creative

Division of brain hemispheres is another great example of a myth that was altered by others and then gained popularity until it was believed to be true.

The reality is that both sides of your brain control most activities. For example, when performing math, both the right and left hemispheres of your brain are utilized. If we were to believe that the left hemisphere controls logic and the right hemisphere controls creativity, it wouldn’t make sense to use the right side. After all, math is all logic, right?

Myth #6: Your Memory is an Exact Account of What You See and Experience

We recall memories from the brain. They are not an actual account of what took place. When we recall a memory it takes on the form of the last time we recalled that memory. That means we enhance certain portions of the memory and allow other parts to fade into the background.

If we remember a traumatic experience, our brains may block certain parts as a protection. It is also important to know that psychologists have successfully been able to implant false memories. All of this better explains why several people can witness the same event, but everyone recalls it differently.

Myth #7: Listening to Classical Music Will Make a Baby Smarter

In the 1950’s, physician Albert Tomatis claimed success in treating auditory disorders with classical music. He based his findings on a theory formed after 36 college students were asked to listen to 10 minutes of a Mozart sonata before taking an IQ test. The students were found by an overseeing psychologist, Dr. Gordon Shaw, to have improved their IQ points by eight. With the findings, the “Mozart effect” came to life.

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No physician has been able to duplicate the results of the study since the original findings. Dr. Frances Rauscher, involved in the initial study, advises the results never claimed listening to Mozart made the group smarter. Instead, they found it increased performance on certain spatial-temporal tasks. However, the myth was born and still lives today.

Myth #8: Brain Games Improve Your Memory and Reasoning Skills

In theory, it seems to make sense that brain games would improve your memory and reasoning by exercising the portions of the brain that control those functions. However, research has proven this not to be true.

The BBC took initiative to look into this theory. In a study of over 8,600 people, ages 18-60, brain function in memory and reasoning skills did not improve after participating three times per week, ten minutes per day, in games designed to improve these skills. Myth busted.

Myth #9: Your IQ Stays the Same Throughout Life

Do you believe some people are born smarter than others and IQs will not change? If so, you’re not alone. Although it is true that the standardized IQ test will show little increase in intelligence over a lifetime, it is not publicized that a learning curve is built into the test.

The test factors in the amount of learning expected to take place over time, and then discounts it, making scores appear to stay the same when we are actually getting smarter.

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Myth #10: Your Brain Works Better Under Pressure

The theory is a widely popular one, but in reality your mind is not working better under pressure, you are just more focused on the task.

Because added focus makes people think they work better under pressure, they will wait until the last minute to perform a task. The stress caused to a brain while under pressure increases the release of cortisol. Too much cortisol can hamper learning and memory formation causing long-term adverse effects.

Now that you know the 10 most common myths about the brain are debunked, it’s time to educate the world. Next time someone tells you they are right-brained and cannot do something, you will have an educated answer as to why they can.

Featured photo credit: Andrew Becraft via flickr.com

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Missy Yost

Missy is a business owner and writes about everyday lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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