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Dispelling Four Neuroscience Myths

NeuroscienceNeuroscience myths are plentiful. From thinking we’re either left-brained or right-brained, to believing we stop learning at three years old: the brain has worked hard to convince us untruths about… brains.

As we uncover more about neuroscience, these myths are slowly unravelling. Thankfully, brains are becoming wise to themselves!

Neuroscience plays a huge part in Learning and Development.

The more we know about how the brain works, the easier we can make the learning process.

It’s important to debunk myths when it comes to learning, that way we can make sure to build training based on sound research. This will lead to an overall better return on your training investment.

Firstly, let’s have a refresher on what neuroscience involves…

What is Neuroscience?

A row of three question marks, they are in different colours.

Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system. It mainly focuses on memory, perception, behaviour and something we know a little about; learning.

The goal of neuroscience is to understand the brain. It allows us to comprehend what makes us think, what makes us process information, and what makes us act in certain ways. From the medical world to psychology, to Learning and Development: a wealth of communities benefit from the study of neuroscience.

The Four Major Neuroscience Myths

1. The Myth:

‘We Only Use 10% of Our Brain.’

The Truth:

Contrary to popular belief, a healthy human will use 100% of their brain. No one’s too sure where the 10% figure came from. In the groundbreaking 1936 self-help book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People,’ author Dale Carnegie says his old college professor used to say it. The popularity of the book may have had something to do with the rumour spreading like wildfire. In an interview with neurologist Barry Gordon, he stated: “It turns out that we use virtually every part of the brain, and that [most of] the brain is active almost all the time”.

2. The Myth:

A head showing the synapses in someone's brain firing as they dream up a Training Needs Analysis

‘Left Brain/Right Brain People’

The Truth:

For a long time, we have believed that creative people work from the right side of the brain, and the more logical and rational thinkers operate from the left side. This is complete fiction. In a new two year study, the University of Utah scanned the brains of 1000 people aged from 7-29. They concluded there was no evidence that one side of the brain was more dominant than the other.

Some people have a tendency to be more creative or logical, but this is determined by anything from genetics to environment to lifestyle. Good job then that we promote social learning. By including features on our Academy LMS such as an Experts area, colleagues can source advice from the best creative or logical brains in the company.

3. The Myth:

‘Men have Different Brains to Women.’

The Truth:

To think the brain is pre-wired to act in certain ways because of gender alone is considered neurosexist. Cognitive neuroscientist Gina Rippon analysed the data on sex differences in the brain. The only differences she found were inconsequential. Both brains are malleable. Both brains can therefore learn the exact same as each other, at the exact same rate. So men’s brains aren’t wired to think more rationally in an emergency, and women aren’t better at multitasking!

4. The Myth:

‘Attention Spans are Shrinking.’

The Truth:

If you’ve made it to this point, then we’d like to congratulate you on your unwavering brain stamina!

With social media, smartphones and 300 hours worth of YouTube videos being uploaded every minute; there’s a lot nowadays to derail your focus. This is why we’ve put a lot of focus on mobile learning. This doesn’t mean our attention spans are shorter. However, the world of L&D has had to become more inventive to win the concentration of learners! Take gamification, for example.

Gamification is the application of gaming mechanics to non-gaming environments. With features such as leaderboards, badges and experience points; It helps massively with learner engagement.

In the heady days of 2015, Microsoft Canada published a report stating that attention spans are only 8 seconds long.

With a rather showy 9 seconds, it was widely considered the humble goldfish trumped us when it came to concentration. Fast forward a few years, and we’ve found this revelation to be untrue.

An article published by The BBC in 2107 stated that after researching the sources, there was nothing to suggest our attention spans had shrunk. Instead, it all depends on the task in hand. They also found that goldfish don’t have particularly short attention spans either!

Final Word:

Some neuroscientific myths have because popular because frankly, they’re sensationalist. They make for interesting, dynamic debates. However, as we learn more about the brain, certain truths are being uncovered. There are no age limits when it comes to us deciding important life factors. We use 100% of our brains most of the time. There’s no such thing as left-brained and right-brained people. Men and women have the same brains, and attention spans are not shrinking. Busting these myths is great news for the learners amongst us. In reality, there are no restrictions and no debilities when it comes to absorbing new info. Want to learn a new course at 100? Go ahead! However, there are certain tricks we can inject into our learning to make it more engaging.

To find out more about neuroscience and engaging your learners, click here to get a free copy of our neuroscience infographic!

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