Debunk-Tuesday – The 10%-Brain

in psychology •  8 months ago

Every Tuesday I am going to address one specific myth, urban legend, conspiracy theory or piece of pseudo-science. This time we are going to take a closer look into one of pop culture’s most valued myths: humans use only ten percent of their brain.


Hidden Potentials

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I always liked the idea of being capable to achieve true greatness. Many people told me over the years, how smart and eloquent I was and that I’m destined to change the lives of millions. Well, nice prep talk, bro. Currently, I’m sitting in my room in a rented flat writing for random internet people I don’t even really know. It seems, I’m as far away of changing the lives of millions as one can possibly imagine. But that’s alright. Apparently, I haven’t unlocked my TRUE potential, yet.

Somehow there are a lot of people out there, who are convinced of the idea, that we, as humans, use only ten percent of our brains. And because of this 90% uselessness we carry around, we can achieve almost anything, as soon as we turn the 90% junk into 100% awesomeness. So even if my life currently seems to be fucked up, broke and useless – that’s only because of my unused abilities. I just need to find the trigger to magically unlock the 90% greatness and somehow, I will be a god-like creature no one is able to stop. Jeez, Luc Besson even directed a movie (1) about this insane idea.
I was, of course, not the first one to realize that. @suesa wrote about this months ago - but since I'm an egocentric prick, I didn't bother to look it up. Deal with it.
But, as I already told you once, one of life’s most undervalued lessons is disappointment. So, of course, nothing about this idea is true. Sadly. I know.


The Life of Brain

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How came this idea to life?
To answer this, we have to travel a few decades back in time. The 1890s, to be exact. It was around this time, when the psychologists William James and Boris Sidis came up with the theory (which had much to do with the young William Sidis), that people only use a small part of their full mental capabilities (2). Later, the writer Lowell Thomas wrote the far-reaching sentence (3):

Professor William James of Harvard used to say that the average man develops only ten per cent of his latent mental ability.

And the damage was done. Misinterpreted scientific claims are not something which are an exclusively new appearance of modern times.
It seems indeed like an attractive concept, so it doesn’t surprise me, that it’s still around after so many years.
The problem with this idea is, that there are still so many people who believing it. Even the ones, who should know better are spreading this myth. According to Richard E. Cytowic there are 2/3 of public and nearly half of the science teachers clinging to this very wrong concept about mental capabilities (4). I ranted a while ago in a chat about institutional education and that a special certificate does not immunize you from spreading bullshit – apparently, there is at least some truth to my claims. Anyway.

It can actually be really dangerous to hold on to this belief. The neuroscientist Sophie Scott was attending a first aid course and the instructor told the class, they shouldn’t worry too much about head injuries, because 90% of the brain is not doing anything (5). Wow. That’s heavy. So fucking wrong and so fucking dangerous. Our brains are incredibly sensible when it comes to injuries. Even small ones can lead to serious health issues and disabilities. If you ever attend a first aid class and your instructor is telling you to ignore head wounds – call bullshit on that.

Thankfully, we have scientific advances to teach us more about brain functions. It is clear, most of the brain is active all the time (6). In a study about medical myths Dr. Rachel C. Vreeman and Dr. Aaron E. Carroll stated, that even with a detailed probing of the brain it was not possible to identify the claimed not-used 90 percent (7).

You can look at this from another perspective as well: your brain weights about three percent of your total body mass – but it uses 20 percent of its energy. Doesn’t this seem to be quite odd, if you would only use 10 percent of it? This would be an incredible waste of energy and it’s extremely useless if you think about it from an evolutionary point of view. The process of natural selection would have simply wiped out such inefficient brains. Evolution doesn’t care about hidden potential – if you can’t use it, it’s useless to hold on to it and therefore it needs to die.
Think about neurological diseases like Parkinson: it affects only very specific brain areas, so not even close to damaging 90% of the brain – but the consequences are quite severe nevertheless.
The brain has some amazing regenerative capabilities, but this shouldn’t fool you into thinking, that there is some hidden potential waiting to be unlocked.


True Greatness

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I know, how amazing the idea of having unimaginable potentials somewhere hidden in our brain sounds. Trust me, I would not stop searching until I found a way to access them. But unfortunately, we have to accept the sad truth, that there is no Philosopher’s Stone inside us waiting to be found. The only way to get smarter and achieve more, is constant self-development and re-evaluation.

Reading, asking questions, working out, enough sleep, a healthy diet – all of those things can already be done by you without the help of mysterious hopes and imaginary powers. Sure, it takes constant effort and sometimes a lot of discipline, but it’s the only proven way to ensure growth. In a few years we will probably have the opportunity to enhance our brains with technical gadgets to push our mental capabilities far beyond the imaginable – but until then you need to find other ways to achieve greatness.
Getting rid of the bullshit in your life can be a first step in doing so. One of the best ways to help you with that, is reading my articles (feel free to disagree, I’m always open for debates). Maybe I am able to change some lives after all.
We will see.


Feel always free to discuss my ideas and share your own thoughts about the things I’m writing about. Nobody is omniscient and if we all walk away a bit smarter than before, we’ll have achieved a lot.
Thanks for reading and stay smart.
Ego



Make sure, to check out #steemstem for more science related content.

References

(1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_(2014_film)
(2) http://archive.org/stream/energiesofmen00jameuoft/energiesofmen00jameuoft_djvu.txt
(3) http://www.cyberspacei.com/englishwiz/library/friends/how_to_win_friends.htm
(4) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NubJ2ThK_U
(5) www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b016wzs9
(6) https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-people-only-use-10-percent-of-their-brains/
(7) https://www.bmj.com/content/335/7633/1288.full


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Reading, asking questions, working out, enough sleep, a healthy diet – all of those things can already be done by you without the help of mysterious hopes and imaginary powers.

Are you trying to say that all responsibility for being dumb, uneducated, unhealthy and miserable is on me??? LIAR! I'll stick to the comforting myth instead...

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Are you trying to say that all responsibility for being dumb, uneducated, unhealthy and miserable is on me???

No, of course not. There will be an exclusive online training session available soon, in which I will show you how to unlock your true potentials. But the offer is limited - so better subscribe now! :)

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That is a very important point made in this article. I used to think that way (not my fault but my circumstance) and I feel that this "blocked" 90% of my brain. Only when I started thinking that I am in charge here was I able to really get closer to fulfilling my potential and we all have huge potential.
Since I am @egotheist´s designated hater (lol), I have to say that I hate how many great he produces all the time. No seriously though, great job.
Cheers!

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Just wait until I start blogging about food or my last broken fingernail.

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Fingernails are very important! Cheers

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That locus of control is too heavy to carry, I'll just hand it over to my boss/government/religion/(insert scapegoat here)...
Wow, so much extra room to carry those people's agendas and spread them without skepticism! I'm helping! /s

I'm reminded of the phrase, "it won't be easy, but it will be worth it". Keep kicking ass with your full potential by embracing your strengths and aligning then with the goals that matter to you and theres no potential to miss out on!

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same here lol

I just need to find the trigger to magically unlock the 90% greatness

You know what that trigger is? Stop being grumpy 😏

According to Richard E. Cytowic there are 2/3 of public and nearly half of the science teachers clinging to this very wrong concept about mental capabilities

And I thought after 10 months on Steemit nothing would surprise me anymore!

The only way to get smarter and achieve more, is constant self-development and re-evaluation.

I love this sentence Ego 😊 and despite everything I still love William James!

Reestemed!
Lots of love to you always :)

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You know what that trigger is? Stop being grumpy 😏

Sorry, I think, it's too late for that. And life proves me right: I was flying from Berlin to Lisbon on Friday - sunshine in my back. When I stepped out ouf the plane at the airport in Lisbon, rain showers straight from the deepest circles of hell greeted me. How can you stay positive in cases like this?

And I thought after 10 months on Steemit nothing would surprise me anymore!

Oh, no matter how low your expectations are, there will always be someone who can dig deeper :)

and despite everything I still love William James!

Yeah, it's not really his fault, but the misinterpretation by Thomas :/

Thanks a lot for your kind words - I will try to smile more often :)

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Oh Ego! You have been here already 😳 I am sorry to hear about the weather. Well, right now it is actually pouring down! I hope you still managed to have some fun in Lisbon.
As for smiling more often; please, do try it. I am sure you will look even more handsome. 😎

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Yeah, I was there until Monday. I didn't want to bother you, since I haven't seen you around in a while and did not want to distract you from anything important.

Well, I'm travelling to Belgrad tomorrow - maybe I'll have more opportunities to smile there :)

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Enjoy your time there Ego ❤ I hear that the weather has been kinder to the Serbians :)

Thank you, this is one of the stupidest myths of how human mind works that is widely spread in western society.

they shouldn’t worry too much about head injuries, because 90% of the brain is not doing anything

All my hopes to discover the remaining of my brains are shattered...

Honestly, a great article and a fantastic idea to debunk such myths! I will be looking forward for your next one!

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Yeah, this one surprised me as well :/

Das ganze hängt natürlich auch mit der Kapitalismus Vorstellung zusammen.
Es wird ja überall vermittelt, dass man alles erreichen kann und alles werden kann (selbst President)
Greets

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Wobei ich zugeben muss, dass ich überzeugter Kapitalist mit libertären Tendenzen bin :P

It seems, I’m as far away of changing the lives of millions as one can possibly imagine.

You do change the lives of lots of people (maybe not millions the number should not matter). Keep the "debunk Tuesday" series @egotheist. Kudos.

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Well, that's at least what I keep telling myself^^
It's going to be quite interesting, as soon as I have finished my book about this stuff, I guess.

Ich Feier den Debunk-Tuesday so hart... Und diese Phrase verwende ich nicht oft, will also was heißen!
Die Inhalte sind interessant, die Texte echt unterhaltsam geschrieben! Da gibt's nichts auszusetzen ;)

Liebe Grüße,
Gabs

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Danke! Das hör ich gern :)

Getting rid of the bullshit in your life is sometimes never too easy, it takes some motivational upheaval alongside your diligent efforts to make your life more productive with lesser worries

Saludos mi bella abigail-dantes, tiempo esperando uno de sus escritos...

Muy curioso tema y bastante interesante demás, totalmente de acuerdo. Clave del exito, aquí lo tienen...

Leer, hacer preguntas, ejercitarse, dormir lo suficiente, llevar una dieta saludable: todas esas cosas ya pueden ser hechas por ti sin la ayuda de misteriosas esperanzas y poderes imaginarios.

Pero considero de suma importancia regirse o al menos tratarlo de hacer, pensar y actuar bajo la voluntad de Dios, creo o mejor dicho estoy convencida que seria suficiente para que nuestro cerebro funcione a mas de ese 10%.

Feliz de tenerla nuevamente por aquí, estaré al pendiente todos los martes de esos mitos o leyendas que próximamente nos estarás trayendo.
Un fuerte abrazo desde Venezuela..
Ahhh! saludos de parte de mi hermano @javisem..