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Education Bookcast

Jun 19, 2022

"Are you left-brained or right-brained?" Brain lateralisation has been known about in neuroscience since the early days, but it has been a taboo over the past few decades since pop science sources distorted the literature and made the topic disreputable. Neuroscientists could detect differences between the hemispheres in different activities, but they were having trouble understanding the big picture of why there was asymmetry at this fundamental level of brain structure.

Iain McGillchrist used to be an academic of English literature at the University of Oxford, but after becoming frustrated with what he saw as the over-analysis of poetry so as to make it lose its implicit meaning, decided to change career entirely and pursue medicine. Since that time, he has taken ten years to research and write this book about brain lateralisation and its importance to life, culture, and our moment in history.

For me personally, reading this book made me realise that my most commonly used approach to thinking about the mind - cognitive load theory, dividing long-term memory from working memory, and describing the structure and schemata of long-term memory in order to understand the nature of knowledge and learning - never included any reference to brain lateralisation, despite, as it turns out, enormous differences between the two sides. I also had some takeaways regarding my own philosophy and ways of thinking.

In this episode, we will be focusing on McGillchrist's characterisation of the differences between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, with references to many findings from scientific papers, as well as overall themes that emerge from this synthesis. While I can see no real practical insights regarding what to do in a classroom, I believe that this book is a major contribution to our understanding of the mind, the brain, and humanity, and therefore it should interest many listeners.

Enjoy the podcast.