Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The 10% Myth

It seems like every show I watch has to bring up the ten percent myth. The one where we only use ten percent of our brains, and how we would be so much better if we could only unleash the other 90%. Sorry to tell you folks, we use 100% of our brains. The problem is that we don't always use it very well.
There's any number of proofs of this fact, but this myth keeps coming back, so I'll join the literally hundreds if not thousands of science bloggers who tackle it, in the hopes to nudge it down a scoche.
You can look at the biological basis for our brains. Evolution, in it's infinite cleverness, cobbled together a bigger, calorie devouring brain. Our brain burns more calories than just about any organ, making it a total waste if we only use ten percent of it. Evolution would trim that down, and quickly. Look how coyotes walk compared with domestic dogs- coyotes are the pinnacle of efficiency, walking with their feet perfectly in line, every movement controlled and efficient. Energy wasted means life expectancy decreased, and the easiest way to get selected out is to reduce your longevity, especially early on. Dogs, on the other hand, don't need to worry as much about food, because they have wisely taken on humans as their masters and get fed almost whenever they want. This is an artifact of human interference. Bottom line, our brains are as big as they need to be for what they do.
Well, that's fine, maybe we only use 10 percent at a time. This is closer to true. While FMRIs (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imagers) show that we use 100% of our brains, they do only show us using certain parts at any given time, but it's not limited to 10% and for multiple tasks, more areas in the brain light up. This should completely gut the myth, but of course it doesn't. It's appeared in shows like CSI, House, and almost anything on SyFy.
Which brings me to the latter point- that most of us don't use our brains as well as we could. While many of us are thinkers, few of us are good thinkers. It takes discipline and practice to think critically, which is one of my reasons for posting on topics like cognitive dissonance and more to come in the future. Knowing how our brain works can only make us better, clearer thinkers. At least, that's what I like to think.

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