10% brain myth

By Georgia Holleran (For more about The Modern Educator’s Emporium of Smart Thinking go to: www.thesmartthinkingclub.com)

I recently wrote an article which stated it was a myth that most people only use 10% of their brains.

This notion first seems to appear in Lowell Thomas’ original introduction to Dale Carnegie’s 1936 book How to Win Friends and Influence People. Thomas was recounting the words of eminent Harvard Psychologist William James who stated that people only meet a fraction of their potential, however, Thomas himself decided to make that fraction 10%. Experiments around this time were demonstrating that rats could function perfectly well when increasing portions of their brains were removed, so the assumption was that only a small part of the brain was needed for everyday use. More modern studies however now support the notion that all the brain is used, perhaps not all the time, but certainly over a 24hour time period. Which makes a lot of sense if you consider that the brain takes so much energy to run every day; how could such a complex organ have evolved so amazingly, yet a supposed 90% remain unused?

One reader who enjoyed the article wrote to me in very strong terms stating that she still very much believed that we do only use a small fraction of our brains and was somewhat offended that I had called it a myth. It’s not a mystery why some people still believe this myth as it still surfaces now and then, most notably in films such as Inception (2010), Limitless (2011) and Lucy (2014). Which may be the reason why a recent survey found 65% of Americans still believe it to be true. Peddling this myth also serves those who are either ignorant or unscrupulous and wish to profit from our enthusiasm to improve ourselves.

You can improve aspects of your mind such as memory, retention, creativity and extrapolation, but you really cannot use more of your brain, it really is fully occupied keeping you going all day every day