Tag Archives: Handedness

The worst neurobollocks infographics on the web

Regardless what you think of infographics (and personally, I think they’re largely a pustulent, suppurating boil on the bloated arse of the internet) there are some good, useful ones out there. However, these are vastly outweighed by the thousands of utterly ghastly, misleading, poorly-referenced and pointless ones.

Because I’ve been on holiday for the last week, my levels of rage and misanthropy have dropped somewhat from their usual DEFCON-1-global-thermonuclear-war-the-only-winning-move-is-not-to-play levels, so I thought trying to find the absolute worst neuroscience-related infographics on the web might be a good way to top the vital bile reserves back up again. And oh boy, was I right. There are some doozies.

First up is this purple and blue monstrosity titled ’15 things you didn’t know about the brain.’ Here we learn (amongst other howlers) that the capacity of the brain is 4 terabytes, men process information on the left side while women use both sides, and:

brain-infoWomen are more emotional because they have a bigger limbic system? Are you fucking kidding me? Also, it turns out that ‘Exploding head syndrome’ (also mentioned above) is a real thing, well… kind-of a real thing. Well, actually not really a real thing at all.

Moving swiftly on then, this one titled ‘The neurology of gaming’ is perhaps less laughable, but more dangerous in that it makes a lot of assertions without much to back them up. Nearly all the content here is currently pretty contentious and while some of it might possibly be correct, it’s all presented as fact, with no nuance at all, and only the most cursory attempt at referencing. It also has this brilliantly awful graphic at the bottom:

Neurology-of-Gaming-800What are those little coloured blocks supposed to represent, exactly? Numbers of male and female gamers? Activated brain voxels? Absolutely fucking nothing at all?

The best (by which I mean, worst, naturally) brain-related infographics though, are related to the bullshit left/right-brain myth. This is the idea that some people are more ‘left-brained’ and others are ‘right-brained’, and this has some relationship to their personality, preferences etc., or the idea that some types of information are processed by one hemisphere alone. This is an absolute beauty, which manages (extra points!) to mix up some learning-styles nonsense in there as well for good measure. Amongst many other obviously made-up bits of foolish drivel, it claims that the right-brain is psychic(!), the left likes classical music while the right prefers rock, and the left likes dogs, while the right likes cats.

Left and Right Brain

However, the top prize goes to this pitiful effort, which is chock-full of steaming great turds, but probably the best (worst) bit is reproduced below:

leftrightbrain_infographic

So, you can see which-side-brained you are by which nostril happens to be more blocked up, and men only have brain activity in the left hemisphere. Whoever wrote this deserves to be first up against the wall with a blindfold on when the neuro-revolution comes.

Just to finish on a positive note, while I was scouring the darkest pits of the interwebz to find these, I came across this lovely, helpful little comic about brain development, which manages to be informative, accurate and entertaining. Turns out good ones do exist after all, but infographics (like pretty much everything else) most definitely appear to obey Sturgeon’s Law. 

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Hemispheric dominance and cell-phone usage – what the study really shows

left-right-brainSomewhat unusually, an article in a fairly obscure medical journal (Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery) has been getting some press lately. The press coverage (Science Daily News, USA Today, NY Daily News) makes extensive and wearying use of the dreadful old left/right brain neuromyth. It’s also been pretty popular with idiots on Twitter.

Yes, some functions are somewhat lateralised, and you can identify a dominant hemisphere for things like, handedness, language and auditory function, but unless they’ve had a radical hemispherectomy, you can’t describe some people as ‘left-brained’ or ‘right-brained’. It just doesn’t make any sense.

Anyway… This new study claims to find a link between hemispheric dominance and cell phone usage, specifically, that right-handed people (who tend to be left-hemisphere dominant for functions like language and audition) tend to use their right ear for their cell phone. Left-handers (who vary more in their language dominance) more often used their left ear. They collected the data through an internet survey, so they basically just asked people whether they were right or left-handed and which ear they used for their cell phone.

So, the claim is that right-handers preferably use their right ear (and therefore their left hemisphere). Presumably using your right ear also means using your right handAnd they’re right-handed. See where I’m going here? This study essentially shows that right-handed people prefer to use their right hand for holding things and left-handed people prefer to use their left hand. This result could be nothing to do with hemisphere dominance at all, simply about handedness.

Stop talking about this study. It’s utterly crap and totally meaningless.