We know surprisingly little about one of the most important organs in our body — the brain.
Nevertheless, the world is filled with dozens of ideas about why we think the way we do.
Here are 11 of the most common brain myths — and the surprising science to counter them:
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Myth #1: You only use a fraction of your brain.
If this were true, we’d be able to remove a large portion of our noggins with nearly no consequences! Some scientists think the root of this myth may lie in the fact that you’re not constantly using 100% of your brain at once.
“It turns out though, that we use virtually every part of the brain, and that [most of] the brain is active almost all the time,” Barry Gordon, a neurologist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, told Scientific American.
Myth #2: It’s all downhill once you hit your 20s.
Sure, some skills, like our ability to think quickly and recall information (also known as fluid intelligence), follow the familiar pattern: peaking at roughly age 18 and getting worse over the rest of our lives.
But recent research suggests that — in addition to getting wiser with age — we may also actually get smarter, at least in some ways.
Our ability to do basic math and use a larger vocabulary, for example, likely continue to improve until we turn 50. And our prowess at reading others’ emotions and recalling recent events doesn’t start declining until after age 30.
Myth #3: Your personality is based on whether you’re “right-brained” or “left-brained.”
While either side of the hemisphere may be more engaged in specific tasks, neither one is fully dominant in any one person — at least as far as we know — and there’s no evidence to support the idea that certain personality types are based on dominant brain hemispheres.
The brain’s left hemisphere, for example, is generally dominant when it comes to language — both in terms of processing sound and helping assist with speech. Interestingly, while this rule holds true for roughly 95% of people who are right-handed, it’s only the case for about 70% of people who are left-handed. For the other 30% of lefties, either the right hemisphere dominates when it comes to language or neither side does.