Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The 10% Myth: Is it really that bad?

In chapter three of our text, it discussed the long existing idea that we only use 10% of our brains full potential. This apparent myth that we use a mere one tenth of our actual brain's potential has been linked to thoughts that being able to use the other nine tenths would allow one to harness some sort of super powers. However, there is no scientific evidence to back up the claim that parts of our brain simply do not work throughout the day. Actually, there are large amounts of credible scientific evidence that goes against this ridiculous notion. So why, then, does this myth refuse to disappear and what has kept it around for so long?
            The origins of this idea that we only use 10% of or brains are virtually untraceable. Some early uses of this phrase sprang up in the early to mid 1900s, when the popular director and journalist Lowell Thomas used it in the foreword of a book he wrote saying, “Professor William James of Harvard used to say that the average man develops only ten percent of his latent mental ability,” (p. 53). Then, and even now, it is often been used as a motivational technique to cater to our human need of self-betterment and is used as a means for those to “tap into their full potential.”
            The scientific evidence piles up fairly high against this claim though. By using any form of advanced brain imaging technology, like an EEG or CAT scan, one can see that there is no part of the brain that is dormant, unless that part of the brain has experienced trauma and is now damaged. Analyzing the myth from a basic evolutionary standpoint also allow one to look at this common phrase as a myth. The human brain is said to have developed over many millennia and is a very delicate mechanism. I find it hard to believe that over a period of millions, and possibly more, years, the human brain developed to only use literally ten percent of its true potential. According to the Triune Brain theory, the current human brain is actually a combination of three evolutionary brains. According to this theory, the current human brain consists of the Reptilian Complex, containing our most primal instincts; the limbic system, our emotional center; and the neocortex, which serves as the driver, controlling each of the other two brains. If the Triune Brain theory is correct, and the human brain is a compilation of three different brains all performing different tasks in different areas, it is certain to use more that 10% of its true potential. Below is a picture of the theoretical Triune Brain
            I think this myth has refused to die because humans have an internal sense of self-betterment in them. We engage in a constant attempt to better ourselves as a people. This is part of the reason that the self-help industry is such a successful enterprise for many people. People are always looking to get motivated about something, and believing that we have the potential to utilize more of our brains than most people normally do is a way for us to move towards bettering ourselves. I think most see it as a metaphor or a symbol that tells us that we have the potential to be better. So even though we don’t literally use only ten percent of our brain, the harm in believing this myth is minimal, and keeping it around may actually help people better themselves and be motivated to be a better person. Even though it is a myth, I think it would be smart to not kill it quite yet. 

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