There’s been a whole lot of research into the human brain and why people act and learn in specific ways. But with this research has come a whole lot of what we like to call ‘hokum’.
There is a more scientific word for these theories though, and that’s ‘neuromyths’.
Not only are some commonly spread neuromyths just completely wrong, but they can also be quite damaging to how people learn moving forward!
Let’s take a mo to dive into some common neuromyths together and debunk them completely.
What Are Neuromyths
This is probably a good place to start, as we’ll be throwing this word around a lot in this article.
A neuromyth is a commonly held false belief about how the mind and brain function. It’s a term that was born back in 2007 as part of an OECD report on how our brains work.
The problem with neuromyths is that once they’re in our public consciousness it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. Once fiction is ingrained in our minds, it can actually start to impact our choices.
Top Learning Neuromyths
So, now that you know what a neuromyth is, let’s dig into some of the most common and get them debunked!
1. Do We Only Use 10% Of Our Brain?
This is one of the most common we hear, it even featured in a Scarlett Johansson blockbuster (‘Lucy’ if anyone’s interested) and it’s completely false! Brain imaging has provided no evidence for any inactive areas in a healthy brain.
This means that a healthy person is actually using 100% of their noggin. It’s likely that this false fact comes from psychologist William James, who told his audiences that people only meet a fraction of their full mental potential.
2. Are People Either Left-Brain or Right-Brain Thinkers?
Supposedly, some of us are left-brain thinkers (which makes us more logical) and some right-brain thinkers (which makers us super creative).
Well, fun fact, you actually use both hemispheres of your brain, no matter how artistically talented or lacking you are. There’s literally no evidence that the way you learn varies based on one side of your brain being more dominant.
This neuromyth probably stems from the work of Nobel Prize winner Roger Sperry, who did notice some differences in how the two hemispheres of the brain work independently. The catch though? He was studying people whose left and right brains had been surgically disconnected!
3. Does Practice Make Perfect?
If you want to be great at something you should just do it over and over and over again – right?
Practice is important, but it’s the right type of practice that’ll elevate you to the next level. Deconstructing what you’re doing into smaller bite-sized elements will allow you to understand each piece in isolation. This will mean you can learn it in a more precise way, and often much quicker!
It’s also been found that taking some time away from what you’re trying to perfect and spending some time doing something completely unrelated can actually help to improve your performance.
4. Are People Either Visual or Auditory Learners?
The thought that some people are visual learners and others are kinesthetic learners is probably one of the most common education neuromyths.
Whilst we might all individually have preferences for the way we like to learn, no links have been found between teaching to preferred techniques and improved learning.
In fact, as well as being one of the most common myths, it’s also one of the most harmful! If a person becomes pigeonholed as an auditory learner because they’re a musical prodigy – this might hold them back in more visual subjects like science or geography.
5. Do We Learn Better When We’re Young?
It’s common to hear that our brains stop developing by the time we’ve hit puberty. However, research has shown that our brain keeps developing well into adulthood.
Whilst our brain certainly goes through vast periods of learning whilst we’re young, most of the studies that prove critical times for learning have been conducted using rats in mazes, not people!
Again, this idea can be really damaging to those who believe it. A lot of people will put off learning new skills, such as a musical instrument or a new language, later on in life because they don’t think their brain can handle it.
Our opinion here at Zest: you sure can teach an old dog new tricks, if the dog is ready and willing to learn!
6. Does Stress Impair Learning?
Is it impossible to learn under pressure? No. In fact, certain stresses have been seen to enhance learning!
It’s important to bear in mind, however, that different people have different levels of stress tolerance. It’s when we become overwhelmed that our ability to learn becomes impaired.
7. Are Memories Stored In Our Brain?
Your memories are actually kept safe in our neural network, which is across our whole body! When you’re trying to remember something, your neural network comes together to reassemble them at that moment.
It’s easy to think of our brains as one big database where all of our memories are stored – but this is wrong.
Did any of these debunkings blow your mind? Did you believe any of the above seven until just now?
Knowing what’s true and what’s false about your brain open you up to being a more efficient learner.
If you’re ready to start using your newfound learning skills, maybe it’s time to speak to the pros? Here at Zest, we can help you unlock both your own and your team’s full potential with our range of learning and development resources. Drop an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.