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What is a Hemispheric Dominance Test?

Instructor: Michael Quist

Michael has taught college-level mathematics and sociology; high school math, history, science, and speech/drama; and has a doctorate in education.

Hemispheric dominance tests are designed to determine which side of the brain has more control over personality and learning styles. In this lesson we will discuss the theory, how the tests work, and current criticisms.

What is Hemispheric Dominance?

'You're such a right-brainer! You couldn't give a logical answer if your life depended on it!' Have you ever heard something like this before? Or maybe you've heard it's opposite: 'Left-brainers just aren't as creative.' Popular theory holds that if your right brain is dominant, you tend to be creative and emotional, but not so good at logical thinking. If you think most with your left brain, then you tend to be logical and disciplined, but perhaps a little unfeeling and uncreative. The idea is popular today, especially among educators.

The hemispheric dominance theory, or left brain versus right brain theory, proposes that each side (hemisphere) of the brain controls certain cognitive processes.

brain hemispheres

The separation of functions between the sides of the brain is called lateralization or laterality. The idea is that the two separate frontal lobes of your brain--left and right sides--are somewhat independent of each other, each doing their own jobs. The hemispheric dominance theory further indicates that one of the two sides has more influence over your learning and personality.

You can see hemispheric dominance in action just by looking down at your hands. Are you right-handed or left-handed? Your 'handedness' is an example of one side of your brain being dominant in regard to a certain function. There are many ways of thinking that are considered to be centered in one side of your brain or the other. For example, theories propose that your brain processes information in a linear manner (step by step, piece by piece) on the left side of your brain, and works in more of a holistic way (big picture, eagle-eye view) on the right side. Whichever side is dominant determines which way you will tend to think. Note that you are probably capable of both--both sides of your brain are working--but the dominance theory indicates that one side is the preferred side when you are performing brain functions like conversation, work, solving a puzzle, or creating something.

How do Hemispheric Dominance Tests Work?

Typical hemispheric dominance tests work from the assumption that the more creative functions occur in the right hemisphere, and the logical functions occur on the left side. If you tend to be more creative, then you must be a right-brainer!

The tests will typically pose questions about how orderly and controlled you are, what sort of experiences you prefer, whether you are a detail person, etc. Your answers are used to create a score, which indicates whether you are left-brain or right-brain dominant. Tests will show characteristics like being a holistic thinker (someone who looks at the big picture), a random processor (someone who jumps from task to task), or a concrete-focused individual (someone who prefers things that can be seen and touched).

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