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Pop psychology: "left / right brain" [part 2]

More on "left brain / right brain" pop psychology, and why it is incorrect:

4. Is the left analytical and logical, and the right intuitive? There's no evidence for that, really, and that represents a gross misunderstanding of how language, intuition, math, music, or whatever work in the brain. To say that language can be reduced to something logical and analytical is terribly simplistic, and reflects a total ignorance of linguistics and langauge structure. Traditional logical cannot explain how semantics, pragmatics, the lexicon, syntax, phonology, and morphology function or interact in a way that we can produce and comphrehend langauge. In fact, non-traditional types of logic form the basis of more recent linguistic and psycholinguistic theories, like connectionism, optimality theory, cognitive linguistics, and dual route processing models. These are based on optimization logic, or abduction (as the philopher Peirce described it; it is also the type of logic behind game theory), and complex conceptual structures known as schemas. Without delving into philosophical lectures on logic, I'll just say that this kind of logic or mental processing can underly all sorts of information processing in the brain - language, music, math, or whatever - and it's not the case then that any of these areas are "logical" or "non-logical" - ideas which assume that traditional inductive/deductive logic is the only type of logic available to our brain's machinery.

At the level of neural networks, though, connectionist logic and schema theory can be shown to underlie all kinds of problem solving and information processing, like recognizing objects, mathematical problem solving, and other areas. If you are familiar with connectionist logic, it's not hard to see how, at least at the level of neural processing, this could be involved in all kinds of things - art, music, intuition, math, language, or anything in our conscious minds. (For more, you can read books by the connectionist philosophers Churchland & Churchland, though they take it to an extreme, and there's a lot more to what goes on in our minds than connectionist processing and neural networking.)

5. These claims about math and language being logical and analytical, and art and music being intuitive or non-logical, are also based on the fallacy of conscious introspection. You can introspect and discern what your mind does only at a conscious level, not about the unconscious machinery that goes on underneath. There's a lot of that going on when we do common tasks, which we're not aware of, which is good. Language, for example, is so complex that a lot of our mental processing of language is subconscious. The same is also true of other things the mind does. If all of it were done consciously, our minds would be so overloaded that we'd never function. So pop psychologists cannot make claims about the basic nature of language, music, etc. based on our conscious awareness of these functions - these claims are superficial, untested, and made without any scientific evidence.

So you can't be a "left brained" or "right brained" person. Psychologically, that makes no sense, and is meaningless.

As Christians, we shouldn't buy into pop psychology so easily, at least not without checking it out first. Generally, pop psychology is promoted and published by second-rate psychologists or people with inadequate psychology training. It's produced by publishers and authors wanting to make money or to get famous. In doing so, they distort the truth of research psychology, or don't want to deal with the truth, complexities and nuances of real research psychology; and science is sacrificed for profit in the process. As Christians, we should be committed to intellectual and scientific integrity, and resist the latest fads and bandwagon appeals and claims made with little evidence. We need to be careful about these pop psychology fads.

Or even some science and psych research reported in the popular press requires caution. Many journalists don't have sufficient scientific background to report on science and research news, and so they overgeneralize or misstate the claims of scientists. ("Coffee is bad for you" then later, "Coffee is good for you") They do so because they don't know how science and research work, and they only confuse the general public, many of whom also don't know enough about how science and research work to filter what they hear properly.

[More later on pop psychology...]


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