Left vs. Right

Which Side Are You On?

In general the left and right hemispheres of your brain process information in different ways. We tend to process information using our dominant side. However, the learning process is enhanced when all of our senses are used. This includes using your less dominate hemisphere. Listed below are information processing styles that are characteristically used by your right or left brain. Read the information below to help you understand how your brain processes information. Pay attention to your less dominant style so that you can learn how to improve it. If you want to jump through the list, click on the choice that you wish to examine.

 

Linear vs. Holistic Processing Logical vs. Intuitive
Sequential vs. Random Processing Verbal vs. Nonverbal Processing
Symbolic vs. Concrete Processing Reality-Based vs. Fantasy-Oriented Processing

 
Linear vs. Holistic Processing

The left side of the brain processes information in a linear manner. It process from part to whole. It takes pieces, lines them up, and arranges them in a logical order; then it draws conclusions. The right brain, however, processes from whole to part, holistically. It starts with the answer. It sees the big picture first, not the details. If you are right-brained, you may have difficulty following a lecture unless you are given the big picture first. Do you now see why it is absolutely necessary for a right-brained person to read an assigned chapter or background information before a lecture or to survey a chapter before reading? If an instructor doesn't consistently give an overview before he or she begins a lecture, you may need to ask at the end of class what the next lecture will be and how you can prepare for it. If you are predominantly right-brained, you may also have trouble outlining (you've probably written many papers first and outlined them latter because an outline was required). You're the student who needs to know why you are doing something. Left-brained students would do well to exercise their right-brain in such a manner.
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Sequential vs. Random Processing

In addition to thinking in a linear manner, the left brain processes in sequence -- in order. The left-brained person is a list maker. If you are left-brained, you would enjoy making a master schedule and doing daily planning. You complete tasks in order and take pleasure in checking them off when they are accomplished. Likewise, learning things in sequence is relatively easy for you. For example, spelling involves sequencing; if you are left-brained, you are probably a good speller. The left brain is also at work in the linear and sequential processing of math and in following directions.

By contrast, the approach of the right-brained student is random. If you are right-brained, you may flit from one task to another. You will get just as much done but perhaps without having addressed priorities. An assignment may be late or incomplete, not because you weren't working, but because you were working on something else. You were ready to rebel when asked to make study schedules for the week.  But because of the random nature of your dominant side, you must make lists, and you must make schedules. This may be your only hope for survival in college. You should also make a special effort to read directions. Oh yes, the mention of spelling makes you cringe. Use the dictionary, carry a Franklin speller, or use the spell checker on your computer. Never turn in an assignment without proofing for spelling. Because the right side of the brain is color sensitive, you might try using colors to learn sequence, making the first step green, the second blue, the last red. Or you may want to "walk" a sequence, either by physically going from place to place or by imagining it. For the first step of the sequence, you might walk to the front door; for the second, to the kitchen; for the third, to the den, etc. Or make Step One a certain place or thing in your dorm room or study place and Step Two another. If you consistently use the same sequence, you will find that this strategy is transferable to many tasks involving sequence. [top of list]

   
 

Symbolic vs. Concrete Processing

The left brain has no trouble processing symbols. Many academic pursuits deal with symbols such as letters, words, and mathematical notations. The left-brained person tends to be comfortable with linguistic and mathematical endeavors. Left-brained students will probably just memorize vocabulary words or math formulas. The right brain, on the other hand, wants things to be concrete. The right-brained person wants to see, feel, or touch the real object. Right-brained students may have had trouble learning to read using phonics. They prefer to see words in context and to see how the formula works. To use your right brain, create opportunities for hands-on activities. Use something real whenever possible. You may also want to draw out a math problem or illustrate your notes.
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Logical vs. Intuitive Processing

The left brain processes in a linear, sequential, logical manner. When you process on the left side, you use information piece by piece to solve a math problem or work out a science experiment. When you read and listen, you look for the pieces so that you can draw logical conclusions. Your decisions are made on logic--proof. If you process primarily on the right side of the brain, you use intuition. You may know the right answer to a math problem but not be sure how you got it. You may have to start with the answer and work backwards. On a quiz, you have a gut feeling as to which answers are correct, and you are usually right. In writing, it is the left brain that pays attention to mechanics such as spelling, agreement, and punctuation. But the right side pays attention to coherence and meaning; that is, your right brain tells you it "feels" right. Your decisions will be based on feelings.
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Verbal vs. Non-verbal Processing

Left-brained students have little trouble expressing themselves in words. Right-brained students may know what they mean but often have trouble finding the right words. The best illustration of this is to listen to people give directions. The left-brained person will say something like "From here, go west three blocks and turn north on Vine Street. Go three or four miles and then turn east onto Broad Street." The right-brained person will sound something like this: "Turn right (pointing right) by the church over there (pointing again). Then you will pass a McDonalds and a Walmart. At the next light, turn right toward the BP station." So how is this relevant to planning study strategies? Right-brained students need to back up everything visually. If it's not written down, they probably won't remember it. And it would be even better for right-brained students to illustrate it. They need to get into the habit of making a mental video of things as they hear or read them. Right-brained students need to know that it may take them longer to write a paper, and the paper may need more revision before it says what they want it to say. This means allowing extra time when a writing assignment is due.
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Reality-Based vs. Fantasy-Oriented Processing

The left side of the brain deals with things the way they are--with reality. When left-brained students are affected by the environment, they usually adjust to it. Not so with right-brained students; they try to change the environment! Left-brained people want to know the rules and follow them. In fact, if there are no rules for situations, they will probably make up rules to follow! Left-brained students know the consequences of not turning in papers on time or of failing a test, but right-brained students are sometimes not aware that there is anything wrong. So, if you are right-brained, make sure you constantly ask for feedback and reality checks. It's too late the day before finals to ask if you can do extra credit. Keep a careful record of your assignments and tests. Visit with your professor routinely. While this fantasy orientation may seem a disadvantage, in some cases it is an advantage. The right-brained student is creative. In order to learn about the digestive system, you may decide to become a piece of food! And since emotion is processed on the right side of the brain, you will probably remember well anything you become emotionally involved in as you are trying to learn.

These are just some of the differences that exist between the left and right hemispheres, but you can see a pattern. Because left-brained strategies are the ones used most often in the classroom, right-brained students sometimes feel inadequate. However, you now know that you can be flexible and adapt material to the right side of your brain. Likewise, those of you who are predominantly left-brained know that it would be wise to use both sides of the brain and employ some right-brained strategies. [top of list]
 



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