Do we really only use 10% of our brain?

The myth busting continues, how much of our brain do we use?
13 June 2017

Interview with 

Duncan Astle, University of Cambridge


The myth busting continues, how much of our brain do we use? Chris asked Duncan Astle from the University of Cambridge...

Chris - Duncan, is there anything psychological that you’d like to throw into the mix?

Duncan - So many it’s hard to know which one to choose. The classic one is you only use 10% of your brain. You use all of your brain, and even the death of cells in relatively restricted parts of the brain can result in quite profound cognitive problems.

There are loads like the left hemisphere of your brain is for logic and the right is for creativity. That’s nonsense. Sometimes people say to me some people’s brains are predisposed to learn in different ways, so we have kinesthetic learners, and auditory learners. That, I’m afraid, also is nonsense.

Chris - Dani you’re nodding is that yes because you are one or you think this is rubbish?

Danielle - As a lecturer, we’re told that a lot so we have to account for all different types of learners and that’s one of the things I learnt in my PGCE that I did quite recently. There’s four different types of learners.

Chris - You’ve just demolished all of her learning.

Duncan - I’m afraid so.

Danielle - I do tend to use a lot of visual, written, and all different things any way, so I think it’s OK.

Duncan - In that sense it’s great. What we do know is that if you deliver materials from different perspectives and in different ways, then the learning will be more durable. We’ve known that for a long time - it’s classic cognitive psychology.

But what this is suggesting is something rather different, which is that people, often children, are predisposed to learn in specific ways, and will learn best when information is delivered in their preferred style, and that is not true. You can demonstrate with the data that children are not better or worse in their preferred style and, potentially, in my experience it can be quite damaging. If you say to a child you’re a kinesthetic learner, then when the lesson is delivered in a different way, the start to think what’s the point in me paying attention. This is not in my preferred style and a waste of my time.

Danielle - It’s an excuse to go to sleep in my lectures.

Chris - Well no-one would do that surely Dani, I’m sure!


Add a comment