The Top 10 Myths about the Brain

The Smithsonian has an excellent article on the Top 10 Myths about the Brain. It’s amazing how well-entrenched these are in the popular consciousness. So, before you say anything about the human brain (especially in a sermon), please consult this list.

My favorite insight from the article was that “There’s a long history of likening the brain to whatever technology is the most advanced, impressive and vaguely mysterious.” We describe the brain as a computer, earlier people described it as a steam engine or telephone. We’ve always been fascinated and confused by what makes the human person tick, constantly searching for some analogy that will make us make sense to ourselves.

You’ll want to read the entire article to get the explanation for why these are myths, but here are the Top 10 Myths.

  1. We only use 10 percent of our brains.
  2. “Flashbulb memories” are precise, detailed, and persistent.
  3. It’s all downhill after 40 (or 50 or 60 or 70)
  4. We have 5 senses.
  5. Brains are like computers.
  6. The brain is hard-wired.
  7. A conk on the head can cause amnesia.
  8. We know what will make us happy.
  9. We see the world as it is.
  10. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.

That last one is contentious enough that it’s worth quote a bit of the article in full.

Certain sex differences are enormously important to us when we’re looking for a mate, but when it comes to most of what our brains do most of the time—perceive the world, direct attention, learn new skills, encode memories, communicate (no, women don’t speak more than men do), judge other people’s emotions (no, men aren’t inept at this)—men and women have almost entirely overlapping and fully Earth-bound abilities.

Read the rest of the article and let me know what jumps out at you. Do you have any long-cherished beliefs about the brain on this list? Are there any that you would dispute?
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About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on May 23, 2011, in Anthropology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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