Does the creativity come from the right brain?

We often hear that creativity comes from the right brain, but this is a myth. To create, we need to use both our brain hemispheres and have a good interplay between them.

brain hemispheres

As most people know, our fantastic brain is divided into two brain hemispheres with dominance for different functions. These are in intense contact with each other and the constant interaction between them makes us into the complex beings we are with intellect, thoughts, feelings and a fantastic ability to create and to perceive all the nuances of the world.

The left brain is dominant for language (words and letters), details, logic, abstract thinking and mathematical calculations. It is good at distinguishing details and when we need to pull the facts out of our memory, it is mainly the left brain that takes care of that job. The left hemisphere is thinking linearly in sequences, A-B-C-D-E, where each part is treated separately in a particular order, which is the very basic condition for the language where one word follows the next.

The right brain is, on the contrary, dominant for spatial perception and orientation, concrete thinking, facial recognition and musicality. It can make some mathematical assessments but only rough estimates. The right brain also helps us interpret visual images and geometric patterns. It plays some role for linguistic ability, but mainly for understanding context and interpreting a person’s emotional one.

It is the right hemisphere that gives us a holistic picture of the outside world. the right brain does not treat information linearly but has the ability to process a large amount of information at the same time, which is the basic premise for being able to quickly recognise a context and interpret other people’s feelings based on their facial expressions.

Although different functions dominate in the different brain hemispheres, our creative thinking is entirely dependent on good function in both brain parts and an intense interaction between them. A functioning interaction between the two hemispheres is also necessary in order to be able to quickly switch between different ways of thinking in the different stages of the creative process. It is therefore a widespread misconception that our creativity is only in the right hemisphere.

We can easily see the importance of both hemisphere’s for creativity when we consider the two giants Albert Einstein and Ludwig van Beethoven. The science genius Einstein, who revolutionized the modern physics with his theory of relativity, should be the archetype of a person with a dominant left brain.

In fact, many of his scientific insights built on his ability to think in pictures, e.g. sitting on a ray of light from the surface of the sun which, at the speed of light, travelled toward the end of the universe to eventually return to the starting point. Einstein gained his insights using his right brain and transformed these insights into mathematical formulas with his left brain.

The musical genius Beethoven should likewise be the archetype of a person with a dominant right brain. Undoubtedly, he used it very efficiently for his music masterpieces, but the composition of music has great similarities to mathematics, where the music is built up by tones, tempo and rhythm that can be described in mathematical terms and the music should then be written down on note paper in the form of symbols with a very exact meaning.

Both Einstein and Beethoven are thus examples of two extremely creative people who made full use of both their brain hemispheres.

This blog post has been inspired by:

Illustration: Pixabay.com – ElisaRiva

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Author: Karl Ekdahl

International public health leader and creativity blogger.

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