In the astrology column my perverse habit is to randomly pick a sign other than my own and see how it suits me. I’ve also been a little leery of the right-brain, left-brain fad. I used to think that anybody planning to go to art school or contemplating a creative life ought first to take a hemispheric test. Many, I thought, would save themselves a lot of trouble if they found they were drawing on the wrong side of the brain. While it’s the conventional wisdom that highly-realized artists are predominantly in the right and visual sectors, I’ve bumped into a few who are staggeringly left and still make it.
In spite of these misgivings, here’s an on-line test noticed by artist Andrea Pratt. Maddening as the questions might be, and with the fear of getting the answers wrong — there are no right or wrong answers — a five-minute flashlight can be taken to your own melon, for better or for worse. http://www.tangischools.org/schools/phs/techno/dayfour.htm
Go to Brain.exe.
My results were 38.5% auditory, 61.5% visual, left: 34.8%, right: 65.2% — mildly right and visual. Ho hum. In my “evaluation” it went on to say that I was most people’s stereotype of an artist. I apparently perceive wholes, respond to patterns, overlook differences, seek diversity, deal randomly and intuitively, and seek symbolism. I’m self directed, move easily from project to project, don’t categorize experiences, create as events unfold, adapt to new situations, have a naturally dynamic learning style, have inner direction, use abstracts to seek answers, appreciate charts and graphs, and tend to draw pictures.
Not a bad horoscope for only twenty questions. If you’re in the mood, give yourself the test.
PS: “Believe nothing, O monk, merely because you have been told it.” (Siddhartha Gautama — Buddha)
Esoterica: Taking the test a second time, given different questions which the test provides, I was strongly left-auditory. Or was I being perverse? If you take the test and turn out “centered” take heart that recent research indicates that all things flow to those who can readily access both hemispheres.
The following are selected responses to this letter. Thank you for writing.
Sven Noordrop, Sweden
Some people have an enlarged corpus collosum which is the neuron highway which goes between the two hemispheres. This facility, almost like a broad-band high-speed internet connection, gives an advantage and permits the fast interaction of both sides of the brain. Research has found that these people often have creativity in spades.
Julie Rodriguez Jones, San Pablo, CA, USA
The test says, almost like a fortune cookie, that I will be highly effective and productive in almost any endeavor. Hopefully I will be able to pay the mortgage too. Auditory: 73.3, Left 66.7, Right 32.3, Visual 26.7
(RG note) Many artists sent their statistics. Some included a print out of their “evaluation.” Thank you. We will keep them on file in case you take the test again sometime and want to refer to the previous results.
Don’t want to know which brain
Thomas Edison once said “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” This enabled me to overcome any feelings of inferiority and low self-esteem that were suppressing my artistic ambitions. This means anybody can follow their dreams and have the ability to accomplish what ever they want to work towards. If a person really believes they need some kind of special inherited talent or proper-sided brain functioning, this will interfere with their productivity. I don’t want to know what side of the brain I am using.
Bob Rennie, Vancouver, BC, Canada
I am a Ph.D. level mathematician (very strong left brain) and whenever people comment on the fact that I am also an artist I often reply that math and art do go together, for example, Leonardo Da Vinci. So left brained people can do pretty good art.
Elsha Leventis, Ontario, Canada
A fellow student conducted a casual survey of classmates at OCAD a couple of years ago and found the results matched his findings doing similar surveys in other “art” environments. Namely, he’s found that most art types fall into either the Leo or Aries signs…and indeed well over half the class were either Leo or Aries. In my personal experience I’ve found that while the standard horoscope in the popular press rarely seems to fit, my horoscope done by a professional tailored to my exact time of birth and birth location was quite a revelation. My own observation of success in any field is that persistence and perseverance really do pay off. There are some mighty talented people who never make it, and less talented people who make it just by getting better over time and hanging in. Of course, there’s luck too. And luck can be defined as the coincidence of preparation and opportunity…
Vasily Smoor, Russia
You seem to be downgrading the considerable documentation and physiological study that has gone into hemispheric research. There is no reason for people without right brain dominance to go into the arts. You were right in the first place, Robert. Just as some humans are built for running — because of long legs; or climbing — because of large lung capacity, still others will find the connectivity necessary for facile and imaginative creation through right brain function. To the others, I’m sorry to say, art will always be a mystery to them, and while they may love art in the way that collectors, critics, aesthetes and intellectuals do, they will never be able to make any other than the most primitive efforts. Training only goes so far.
You North Americans seem to think it is your divine right to make bad paintings. I’m not talking about the New York Abstract Expressions and all the other silly spawnings, though they are bad enough. I’m talking about all of the half-baked brainless amateurs who take a few courses and put out their shingles. These are not dedicated and passionate artists who can “do no other thing,” but rather are hobby and leisure dilettantes who with their limited commitment are only able to make minor skirmishes on the periphery. They are in the wrong business and should stop muddying the waters and degrading taste.
Wot about the lefties?
James Hines, UK
Right brain preference invites right brain art. What’s wrong with Left Brain Art? Are we not allowed to explore all of the marvelous possibilities of the human psyche?
I took the brain test twice, with quite different results. In the first I was right brained, intuitive, with a slight edge on the auditory learning style. In the second test, I was dead center, with a logical bent and visually oriented in learning style. In both, however, I was described as always trying to catch up with myself and get on top of things, and somewhat discomforted in putting conflicting styles together. Agitated, intuitive, but tending to apply linear approaches to analyze. Uncannily close! Not too bad for a 20 question test. But what a difference a couple of questions makes.
It doesn’t matter how left or right you are, as a matter of fact it’s no good if you are totally right brained and you are still always tired from the other job and the activities of the house. With everybody working shifts and double-jobbing these days there is a great deal of sleep deprivation around and that means no inclination to pick up the brush or the pencil or whatever.
Losing her brain
Paula Sue Butts, Folsom, California, USA
After the test, I feel free to confess I dunk my donuts, my jelly sandwiches, I eat peanut butter from a spoon, I eat cucumber and Mayo sandwiches, I eat raw okra, raw potatoes, squash, peppers and I eat garbonzo beans out of a can. I have really pretty color paint spots all over my night clothes. Furthermore, I listen to Roger Miller singing “You Can’t Roller-skate in a Buffalo Herd.” I can be happy ’cause I’ve a mind for it! Yippee! I am me! I’m off balance!
You may be interested to know that artists from 80 countries have visited these sites since January 1, 2001. That includes Paula Cundiff who tells us that the Louisville Zoo is looking for artists. And Susan Legault who read the following in her evaluation: “It is likely that you are restless continuously and do not feel challenged. You may well explore engaging in activities which enhance right-hemisphere functioning which would reduce some of the tension you might currently be experiencing.” She wants to know if anyone else got the same paragraph. And Moncy Barbour who “activates both hemispheres with mental exercises” but didn’t say what they were. And another “Susan” who says, “I am amazed that this test does not have a category for ‘NO Brain.’ I couldn’t even figure out how the heck to download it.”