Monday, April 14, 2008

Are all epiphanies right-brained?

Two movies released this week feature introverted, soul-deadened, betweeded professors who are as academically eggheaded, i.e., as left-brained, as they are clueless about all that right-brained stuff: human relationships and spirituality.

In Smart People, literature professor Dennis Quaid is upended by a visit from his brother and a fling with Sarah Jessica Parker. In The Visitor, a different sort of visit, along with romance and African drumming, transforms a professor of economics.

Naturally, both professors emerge from their shells more engaged with people, passionate about life, spiritually awakened, and happy.

In the stories we like best, it always seems to be a right-brained epiphany.

Imagine, instead, an outgoing African drummer whose life turns topsy-turvy when he takes an economics class and learns that what makes him truly happy is retreating to his study to analyze business cycles and market equilibria.


Allison said...

Who is this "We" ? Not in the stories *I* like best! Look at the movie Apollo 13, where the epiphanies are in the minds. My left-brained-ness would like stories about musicians who are woken up to physics, about preschool teachers who finally understand market economics instead of "feelings", too, but how many left brainers are writing such stories? and who would buy them?

But also, I think most leftbrainers have epiphanies that are Ahas! in their own heads, then they work them out on paper or in math or in an invention or in some way that doesn't lend itself to the romance of film.

lefty said...


I'm with you.

But I do think left-brainers often get a bum rap in pop culture (my "we") as a result of all this.

Susan Senator said...

Great post! Never thought of the popular stories in quite this way...

Dawn said...

Hah! I'm been a life-long dreamer who draws and sings and is (or so I thought) as right-brained as the day is long.

Then I started really looking at math while homeschooling my kids and engaging in demanding debates and suddenly I've had a blossoming of rational thought and a found a lot of joy in numbers. It has been wonderful.

I don't know what kind of thinker I am now though I suspect I hover in the middle.

lefty said...


I LOVE your story, and I wonder how many others out there are like it...

Btw, there's an online test that attempts to measure how left-brained (or systematizing) people are, at:

Dawn said...

That was interesting. I scored in the average range at 34 on the systemizing quotient but above the male average of 30.

On the emotional quotient I was 42, slightly higher then the average for women.

Best of both worlds? :D

I wonder if there's any research on this might changes over time?

Dawn said...

"I wonder if there's any research on this might changes over time?"

Rather...I wonder if there's any research on how this changes in individuals over times.

lefty said...


Sounds like you DO have the best of both worlds-empathetic and analytical! I don't know if this can change over time--an interesting research question.

Btw, I find your earlier comment so compelling that I thought it would be fun to have a blog feature in which people tell stories of left-brained epiphanies.

How would you feel about my posting your comment as the opening post for such a feature?

I think it would inspire lots of other interesting stories.

Dawn said...

Sure!I think that would be a fantastic post and discussion.

(I should correct something. On the empathy score I said it was 42. My score was actually 52 (all the associated info still applies. I misstyped.)