Are You Left Brain Or Right Brain?

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My recently published book The Business of Choice: Marketing to Consumers’ Instincts aims to help demystify behavioral science and neuroscience and show how the insights they reveal about how people choose can be applied to marketing. One of the things I stress in the book is that science is still at the beginning of its exploration of how the brain works, and that marketers should be at least a little wary of commercial claims based on neuroscience to have found the “buy button” (this study though, is pretty interesting). But even in these early days of discovery there is enough evidence to call time on some long-standing misconceptions that crop up with disconcerting frequency. Here’s a couple I deal with in The Business of Choice:

“Neuroscience has provided the evidence to demolish some popular myths about the brain. One is the belief that “we only use 10% of our brains,” the premise of the 2014 movie Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman. Neuroimaging shows that this clearly isn’t the case. Another myth is that there are “left brain” people and “right brain” people. Certain functions are reliant on one side of the brain—speech is generally centered in the left hemisphere for right-handed people. But creative or (their supposed opposite) analytical tasks, nor the people who excel in either of these areas are more dependent on one side of the brain than the other. In an interview with LiveScience, Dr. Jeff Anderson, director of the fMRI Neurosurgical Mapping Service at the University of Utah said

It is not the case that the left hemisphere is associated with logic or reasoning more than the right, Also, creativity is no more processed in the right hemisphere than the left.

So we will just have to find some other language to describe our colleagues who seem either more creative, or more analytical.”

Christian Jarrett deals with the background to these, and other popular misconceptions in more detail in his excellent book Great Myths of The Brain. As he says

Anyone who spends time researching brain myths soon discovers today’s myths were yesterday’s facts

While there is no need for us all to become neuroscientists, it’s becoming very clear that what we are learning about the brain is going to have an increasing impact on marketing not just in theory but in the practice of strategy and execution. Smart marketers will take the time to learn more about what neuroscience continues to reveal, and likely will be raising their eyebrows when they hear others reinforcing brain myths based on yesterday’s facts.

Matthew Willcox is Executive Director at the Institute of Decision Making at FCB, and author of “The Business of Choice: Marketing to Consumers’ Instincts”, published by Pearson FT Press and available on Amazon