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The U.S. Is a Left-Brained Society for Right-Brained People

Updated on December 14, 2016
Comparison of right and left brain thinking.
Comparison of right and left brain thinking. | Source

The Left-Brained Society Prevails

Go to any business meeting and you'll hear phrases like "the bottom line" and "let's look at the numbers" or "what systems do we need to implement to accomplish that goal?"

These phrases are found in the commerce sector and even the academic arena. You might surmise that the US is quite goal-oriented and focuses on numbers.

Think about what you watch on the news. Forecasters always report on the weather and the percentage of a chance that it will rain. The DOW Jones and Stock Market numbers populate the screen just before commercials. Think about how often you hear talk about Gallup Polls and politicians' ratings. You'll often hear the latest medical report juxtaposed with statistics of how many people have this or that illness. Numbers, numbers, numbers.

These are all left-brained thought processes.

Left-Brain Thinking

  • Logical
  • Value numbers
  • Value routine and sequence
  • Like multiple choice tests
  • Look at the details before the big picture
  • Often actively participate in organized religion

What Is Left-Brained Thinking?

If you're predominantly a left-brained thinker, you tend to think very logically and sequentially. You look at the smaller details before looking at the big picture.

Left brained thinkers are more preoccupied with numbers and they don't mind multiple choice tests - at all. That's good news for those of you who love those standardized tests that seem all too prevalent....

If you like math and can do algebra, you're more of a left-brained person.

You tend to like those assignments that are quite structured and direct you on what to do, as opposed to a more open-ended assignment that asks you to be more creative.

Left-brained individuals tend to be more organized and prefer quiet places to study.

You also like formulas of cause and effect. Since logic is a big part of left-brain thinking, you may find yourself asking, "Will this action lead to that result?" This works really well in science class.

But, left-brained thinking is good in business, too. You tend to think that hard work will bring more success and more success has the potential to bring in more money.

Can you see how US society seems very left-brained?

Right-Brain Thinking

  • Tend to be artistic, or musical (as in playing an instrument by ear)
  • More absentminded
  • Go from the big picture to the details
  • Like open-question tests
  • More likely to not participate in organized religion

Based On Reading, Which Do You Think You Are?

See results

What About Right-Brained Thinking?

If you find yourself as one of the more absent-minded types, you might be a right-brained thinker. It's because you're busy being philosophical or dreaming about "what if?"

Right-brained thinkers are often more creative than their left-brained counterparts and prefer more visual or demonstrative instructions on how-to projects. You also tend to love colors and often enjoy drawing, painting, different types of music and writing poetry.

You're also more likely to call upon your intuition in a given situation rather than looking at all the facts.

As far as school goes, reading and writing are often favorite subjects.

Tests with open-ended questions are easier to tackle than the multiple-choice versions.

However, when attempting to write a paper, it might be difficult to sit down and do an outline. Left-brained thinkers tend to want to make outlines. Right-brained thinkers, rather, find it easier to summarize what they want to talk about, and then just start writing.

Right-brained thinkers are very often attracted to spirituality and Eastern Philosophies rather than more organized religion.

Putting It All Together

By now, you may have surmised that the US is quite left-brained.

Left-brain thinkers don't often rely on intuition or instinct; they look at facts and tradition. They tend to like organized religion that is predictable and spells out how people should conduct themselves. This makes sense. Most people in the US identify themselves as Christian, and often actively practice at their church.

Schools - public schools, especially - are quite oriented toward left-brained thinking. Students are asked to provide outlines, and they require a lot of study in math and reading. It's not always a visual endeavor; teachers often give verbal instructions and expect students to follow them.

Schools that have art, music and foreign language at the elementary level are not all that rare, but these curricula are not emphasized in US society.

Because US society tends to value business and achievement - left-brained traits - other disciplines where people are required to think and ponder how society works or more creative endeavors are not as highly valued. How many Art History or Philosophy majors do you know versus Marketing, Business or Economics majors?

You can often pinpoint the right-brained student or adult. They're the ones who often march to the beat of their own drummer. They get bored and have to do something else after a little while - whether it is a simple task at hand or on a larger scale, a job. They are the ones who have a harder time choosing a college major and settling down to just one type of job.

I'm willing to bet that right-brained thinkers can quickly name off various great philosophers more quickly than left-brained thinkers.

Since right-brained thinkers tend to be more intuitive, they often philosophize about life or religion or the problems in society. They're the ones who have long sounded the alarm about taking care of the planet because they see the big picture and the sum total of human activity. The Hippie Movement was spurred on by right-brained thinkers.

Left-brained thinkers often find themselves as lawyers or politicians or in the military. They like the structure and measurable success that these fields can offer. Is it any wonder that with a predominantly left-brained society, the US economy is based on business growth? Does it surprise you that the US is #1 in military power in the world?

It's interesting to think about how the US is not the global leader in green technology and with green movements. But, it makes sense. Being "green" has long been associated with more right-brained thinking. Furthermore, it is science that is not rooted in tradition and the very idea of global warming is unpredictable.

Did You Know?

The US military budget was $700 billion in 2010? It is the #1 military power in the world.

Who was #2? You might have guessed it: China. They only spent $119 billion.

The UK took third place, spending "only" $59.6 billion.

Left-Brain or Right-Brain?

If you feel like you exhibit traits from both right and left-brain thinking, well, you're exactly human.

We all use both sides of the brain, but many of us tend to have one side or the other that is dominant. Some people do not seem to have a dominant side and use both sides of the brain equally.

Because the US is a left-brained society, I would think that more people in the US are left-brained than right.

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      elfyfoo78 7 months ago

      is there a way to prove that left brain n right brain was not a myth and be able to define what have understand on the collusum

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      daisydazys - haha, you're not weird! If that's the case, then a HUGE proportion of the population is weird - including me! :D I just think there's a place for everyone and we all have gifts that we can contribute. If we're right-brained and embrace it, I really think we have a lot to give. :) Thanks for stopping by and for your feedback. Cheers!

    • daisydayz profile image

      Chantele Cross-Jones 5 years ago from Cardiff

      That is a really interesting hub. I think I am pretty right brained really, although I think it is something that has developed the older I got. In school I was very much into science and math but for some reason although being really good at them I decided t pursue a levels, a degree and a career in english and writing. Being creative, in any form, is what makes me tick and I can't go a few days without doing something creative or I will literally go mad. Glad to know I'm not weird! lol! voted up and interesting!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Tanyasays - hehe, my dad was career Air Force. I can understand about rules, and I'm SURE he rolls his eyes when he thinks about me living a very "free" sort of life. But, like you, I don't have much money, but I am oh, so happy! Indeed, I also grew up in a nursing home surrounded by death (not to be morbid) but it is the sort of thing that really leaves a mark. I saw so many people who had worked and worked and worked and worked only to be alone in their final days with hardly any money, family or friends visiting. I resolved when I was a teenager that my life would be one where I cultivate friendships, family relationships, and live a life I'm proud of and one that's less about what everyone else expects of me, but what I expect of me. :) I definitely work hard, but I also try to remember to take time to smell the flowers and if that's the right-brained part of me, well then I'm thankful for it. We've only got one shot at this life here on Earth, and I know it's not supposed to be all "happy" - indeed, some of our greatest lessons are in times of trial - but I try to choose to see that glimmer of light, the glimmer of lessons that will help me to become a better person. Thank you so much for stopping by and for a great discussion. This is awesome! :)

    • tanyasays76 profile image

      tanyasays76 5 years ago

      I can see a really great point in that! I was a police officer for many years and the organized life, rules, and policies were a comfort in some ways but a real burden to my artistic side, as well. So, I, too have stopped dead for a 180 degree turn toward what I love most, and what I feel I do best, and that is writing and art. I am happy with it. Broke, but happy. And all of the best to you in your journey, as well. Thank you for responding ;)

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Tanyasays76 - I sometimes get confused myself, hehe. I really just think you've got to look deep down, figure out what it is that you would do if money were not an object and have the courage to follow through. I actually just quit a lucrative teaching job precisely because I NEED to spend my time writing and creating. Thanks so much for stopping by. Thank you for your feedback and may your journey be the one that you call your True Life. :)

    • tanyasays76 profile image

      tanyasays76 5 years ago

      Informative article, for sure. However I am still confused over whether I am left or right-brained, myself. I understand the popular American drive toward commerce and organization. And a few of us are truly artistic and approach life with more questions than ready-made answers. But the rest of us, so confused by our inward struggle with questions and the need for organization at the same time...is why we need therapy sometimes. lol Great article. Thank you!!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Sally - oh, I could reach through the screen and hug you. I agree! I think we all approach a similar problem differently and I think it's critical to have teams of right- and left-brained thinkers working together to tackle various problems. I wonder what that would look like. :)

      I'll have to check out that book. I've heard it before, but for some reason never picked it up. You've piqued my interest.

      Regarding your question about children designing our social systems, it also begs more questions: what if women designed our social systems? What if artists did? What if the elderly did? What if introverts did? What interesting possibilities. Thanks for the wonderful discussion!!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Julie - I'm a lefty, too! Indeed, part of why I wrote this was because I was in a discussion with a friend of mine about this very thing. I then got to thinking about how our society might mimic left-brained thinking. Thanks for stopping by and thanks so much for the shares. :) Hubhugs!

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      Glad to see this hub...enough discussion about right vs left brain thinking, around the world, can't be had. Individuals have different ways of viewing and interpreting their environments, and US educational systems as well as those in many other parts of the world don't take these differences into account. In other words, I don't think the US has a monopoly on being a left-brained society, if a society can even be categorized as left-brained. What a rich conversation!

      There's a wonderful book, still in print, called "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards. It's one of the most eloquent and practical treatises on what the right brain can do, and how the right brain gets sabotaged as we pass from childhood into adulthood.

      If children were left to design our social systems (Lord of the Flies at the worst--or best?--case), wouldn't it be a different world?

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      Cyndi, this is a very interesting hub and I like your analysis of US society and whether they're left or right brained thinkers. The video is interesting too. I am a leftie and someone told me that probably makes me a right-brained thinker but the video suggests the opposite.

      Voted up n shared.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Thomas - interesting argument. I would just say to be careful about stereotyping any category of people - we're all indeed different and we all have strengths and weaknesses. Besides, there are indeed times when I feel more "left brained" - like when I'm doing fractals - a type of mathematical equation. But, you gave me a hub idea, thanks!

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      Thomas Swan 5 years ago from New Zealand

      If left-brained thinkers participate in organised religion, then perhaps religion is holding back America by keeping these left-brainers occupied with matters that are not academic. However, as someone mentioned above, we may not be left brainers at all. One can look into this further by considering how Asian's appear to have a much better grasp of mathematics. So are Asian's more left-brained than Americans? You could say that Asian's are less religious than Americans, and this could explain their application to mathematics. However, Americans seem to have a general disinterest in maths, and rack up huge debts without consideration of the consequences. This all suggests that Americans are not left-brained. Furthermore, you could say that Americans produce the most films, books, poems and music, so they could (in general) be a more right-brained culture.

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Okay, Lisa. Yep, my dad and grandmother have dyslexia. It runs in my family. But, great thoughts there.

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      Lisa 5 years ago

      excuse me dyslexia is a genetic mutation or defect nothing to do with left or right brain thinking at least I am very good at spelling but it might be due to my photographic way of picturing the letters in my head(also great at art) as for math don't make me go there... the memory for it just is non existent.

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Yes, Hound Cat, I am NOT a fan of the rote tests - at all. In high school, I had a 4.0, was valedictorian, participated in sports and plays, yet I could barely get an average score on the SAT. When I took the SAT II subject tests that required essay writing, I was able to shine there. But those bubble-tests drive me crazy. I'm sure they do a lot of people. Hehe, sorry you read the title wrong...I hope you were in for a pleasant surprise. :)

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Curiad - wow! That's an incredible journey you've been on! I'm so glad you're using the poetic side of the brain these days - you grace HP with your amazing hubs. :)

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      Hound Cat 5 years ago from Los Angeles area of Southern California USA

      I read the title of your article wrong. I jumped to the conclusion that you were talking about right wing (conservative) types and left wing (liberal) type political philosophy. There seems to be quite a bit of both types in our society in the United States. Where I live in this country we have a large contingency of left wing populace.

      I really agree with your analysis of the influence of left side brain thinking. In my area and I assume in yours, our emphasis is on thinking of analysis instead of creative thinking. Those rote tests that they serve up to our students are all multi choice and based upon numerical and statistical data generation.

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      Mark G Weller 5 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

      This makes sense, I would have been left brained all my life until my illness hit. Then after several mini strokes all affecting the left side of my brain, I tend to be poetic, artistic and less mathematical. (I was an engineer for over 20 years). Thank you for the great hub!

      Voted UP!

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      moonlake - Does that mean you're in your left-mind? :D That's really interesting and neat, too.

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      I'll bet you're pretty balanced-brained there, billy. :) From all the hubs I've read by you, I'd guess that. :D Always great to see you!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      I only use my right eye. My left stays closed when I'm on the computer.

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I can't believe I hadn't read this one; I remember thinking I should but then forgot all about it. This is a great hub but it has left me wondering which brain I am...if any? :)

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Very interesting, moonlake. Oh lordy, my eye doctor wouldn't have to test me: I'm blind in my right eye. I only use my left eye. Right-brained for sure. I could be considered bird-brained, too, but that's a whole other subject. :)

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      LiamBean - I'm right there with you. I would consider myself more right-brained if I had to choose, which is why I've noticed that so many numbers seem to float around and we make the nation's children take hours long standardized tests at the end of every school year. I definitely try to infuse the arts into my life when I can. :)

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Thanks, Stephanie. I am probably more right-brained than left, but I definitely have left-brained traits for sure. Really, we all use both sides of the brain, but research does indicate the people often favor one side or the other. Thanks for stopping by! :)

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      According to the way our eye doctor use to do the test I'm right brain. My husband is left brain. Very interesting hub. Enjoyed it.

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      LiamBean 5 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia

      I categorized myself as "both," but to be honest I don't think that's really true. It's hard not to be left brained when you grow up in a country that places such a high value on numbers. Still, I love the arts and try to extend my "non-linear" brain.

      Voted up and useful.

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      Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA

      Very, very interesting take on the U.S. as a left brained society. It explains why we so often hear numbers in the news - percentages, polls, or that 9 out of 10 doctors recommend the cure! I do believe this makes it more difficult for right brained people to fit in. I guess it's really lucky that most of us draw on both sides of our brains in our daily living. :) Thanks for a thought provoking article! Voted up and shared!

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Alecia - thanks for stopping by, dearie! I agree - a bit of both. I just saw a news report about this stuff...while I tend toward the "right brain", I definitely use my left, too - we all do. :) Hehee...I tend to stay in my "right mind" though.

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      Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I agree Cyndi with you. Left brained and right brained people function well together but I think you have to be a bit of both in order to get ahead. I like structure but I need my space to think and project my voice. Great hub!

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Okay. I'll let people look at the link. Whatever the case may be.

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      Sophia Angelique 5 years ago

      CCLitgirl - it's an outdated concept - and has been for a while. http://donaldhtaylor.wordpress.com/writing/modern-...

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Sophia - respectfully, I, too, researched the information I found in psychology books and on other approved websites. What I neglected to say is that some people are balanced-brained. Obviously you are one of those people. Thanks for commenting.

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      Sophia Angelique 5 years ago

      cclitgirl. It's not my opinion. It's hard science. You misunderstand what left brain and right brain do. Creativity has everything to do with intelligence because it's about about problem solving. I think there's some confusion as to what creativity is. Here's a definition of creativity: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/creativity

      Creativity isn't about art.

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Hmm...interesting take, Sophia. Nice perspective. I will kindly stick to my perspective, though. Every time you talk to an art major, no one is like "how smart" - they're more likely to say "hmm, good luck finding a job". Same with music, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, and religion. Part of why that is, IMHO, is because our society is so geared toward the business and economics model. Sure, you can try to follow your dreams, but if you talk to many a dreamer, you'll find that they were quite often laughed at and scorned. So, they begin to not share their dreams and only after realizing them do they dare share - because the ridicule is likely to be less. Maybe not everyone has this experience, but personally I know of quite a few people like this. But, you give some interesting food for thought. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

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      Sophia Angelique 5 years ago

      cclitgirl, I'm going to disagree with you on this. If anything, the US is a right brained society because they focus on business, 'passion,' following your dreams, and their politics are based on popularity, and nobody thinks through consequences at all. In addition, America does not produce many engineering, science, and math students.

      However, it's unlikely that any society is either left brained or right brained. Essentially, men tend to dominate with the left brain and women tend to dominate with the right brain.

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      ThoughtSandwiches (Thomas) - thanks for the comment! I think you're right: lots of societies have that "left-brained" phenomenon going on. I will admit, though, that of the places I have visited around the world, I would tend the to think the US is the most left-brained. It's interesting. :)

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Haha, it's fun to try to figure out where you fit. Thanks for reading, Mark. :) I know that I'm mostly right-brained, but I also have some left-brained stuff that I do, too. :D

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      ThoughtSandwiches 5 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      I tend to think all organized society shows a preference for the left-brainers...it's how they get organized. Once society is established...then they find time for the right-brainers...the arts and such...

      It would appear that after all this time...I have been a right-brained peg being squeezed into a left-brained hole. I would think about that more but I have been side-tracked by philosophy...

      Thanks,

      Thomas

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      Mark Pitts 5 years ago from United States

      I like this. It was fun to read and made me look at myself to figure out where I was. Is that a "leftie" or a "rightie" function?

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Also, GoodLady - I seem to encounter quite a few dyslexic people that are either right-brained or more "balanced-brained". My mom is both a business owner but not that great with reading...at all. But, she's got remarkable sense, I have to say. :D

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      GoodLady - it's great to see you! :) I am with you. I wrote "I hate math" all over my 4th grade notebook...and my teacher wasn't very happy. But, can I tell you how I didn't mind writing 20 pages of journal entries for a 4-day experience in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 5th grade? My teacher couldn't believe that, either. :D

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      kschimmel - yes, my husband is a mechanical engineer - and very "balanced-brained". He is good at math, yet is an incredibly creative person at the same time - he's forever making little metal animals out of scraps of metal. A rare gift. :D

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      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Interesting Hub and debates here.

      Love reading about the brain. Thanks.

      We (as a family) aren't from the USA but one of my successful brothers has a huge business here, he's the obviously left brained person! (he used to play cards and gamble when he was 4.) He could never 'get' me and my weird thinking processes.

      I could never do maths, was thrown out of the class at 10. But you'd find me writing plays somewhere, or meditating.

      Now I know why.

      Interesting comments about dyslexia. My youngest son is dyslexic, he's brilliant at geometric spacial projects and is a well known product designer AND he is problem-solving methodical. I always thought that was because he trained himself to be methodical - because of his dyslexia. Interesting to learn today that he is both left and right brain.

      Makes sense.

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      Kimberly Schimmel 5 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      I understand how you preferred geometry--so did my more artistic children. The engineering brain is both left and right--I think the spatial awareness and problem-solving parts of the brain just overrun the verbal parts in order to create the engineer.

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Natashalh - I agree that we do have a lot of thinkers and problem solvers in US society. However, I would argue that with the rise of high-stakes testing, students in public schools often have hours of reading and math during the day and not that much time for other subjects - at the elementary level. I feel like they get really good at taking tests (even the right-brained thinkers) and then when they have to do open-ended questions, it is difficult for them. Thanks for stopping by!! :)

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      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      People frequently criticize US schools, but research shows that US students are better at problem solving and thinking for themselves, particularly when compared to Asisn students. A friend of mine taut English abroad for several years. He says when he taught in China and assigned an essay, the students would all ask him "what's the answer?" because they had been taught to memorize and regurgitate facts.

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Thanks, alocsin. I couldn't agree more. I just feel that US society tends more toward: business, economics, and accomplishing things. If you aren't on that track, I think it's all to easy to label someone as "not smart". I feel like people who are more creative have a harder time fitting into the "box", so to speak. From my own experience (because I am such a right-brained person), it's like fitting a round peg in a square box. Thanks so much for your input. :D

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      kschimmel - well, of course many of us are not left-brained. I am a complete right-brain thinker, which is what gave me the idea for this hub. I actually do think our educational system is tailored to the left-brainer because the right-brained people typically have a more difficult time with math - hence the remedial courses. Granted, this isn't entirely black and white - there is a lot of gray. But, being a right-brained person myself, I struggled with math in school. In fact, I often despised it until geometry class where it was much easier to understand concepts as it was more visual. Thanks for stopping by. :)

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      annart - You know, my mom is dyslexic. I always heard stories about how she struggled in school - they didn't know what it was back then. But, I think she functioned well as a right-brainer in a left-brained society. :) Thanks for the votes and for stopping by. :)

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      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I think the U.S. does encourage left-brained thinking at least compared to other countries that depend on people and relationships more than data and information. But to answer kschimmel's question, it doesn't mean Americans and smart. Voting this Up and Interesting.

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      Kimberly Schimmel 5 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      I'm not sure I agree. If Americans are so left-brained, why do they need remedial math in college? Why do they take out zillion dollar student loans in order to qualify for 20K annual salaries? My husband works to try to get kids up to speed in STEM fields, but it is an uphill battle.

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      Ann Carr 5 years ago from SW England

      Very interesting. I have taught dyslexics for a long time and they tend to be right-brained I think. There has been a lot of research into the brain activity of dyslexics and modern thoughts also indicate that there are many cross-overs between both sides of the brain. In dyslexics, there are lots of creativity and entrepreneurial talents. I regard myself as right-brained as I like to create (art and writing) and my Taurean label says I'm practical but I'm not so sure about that one! Thanks. Voted up and interesting.