## Sunday, April 27, 2008

### Left-Brained epiphanies, part II

In an earlier post about two new movies featuring introverted eggheads who emerge from transformative experiences more passionate and socially engaged, I asked whether all epiphanies are right-brained. How often, for example, does an outgoing musician learn that what makes him truly happy is retreating to his study to analyze business cycles and market equilibria?

So far, three people have shared their left-brained epiphanies.  Last week, Dawn of Day by Day Discoveries shared hers.

This past week, Liz Ditz of I Speak of Dreams offered two:

1984 was a watershed year for me: I acquired an Osborne portable computer (which I named Ozzie). Suddenly, I discovered the satisfactions of quantitative analysis! I did not have to undertake the huge cognitive burden of mathematics my own self -- my faithful friend Ozzie did the calculations, and I could now play with assumptions. I was in an MBA program at the time. I'd read a case study, and have a way of quantifying my sense that "hmmmn, something's wrong here". I had enough math to set up the parameters, and Ozzie's abilities let me play until my intuitions were quantified.

This story makes me wonder how many other people would discover the joys of left-brained thinking if only the lower-level analysis were less tedious.

How many more grade school students, for example, would enjoy higher level math if only they had more automated command of the lower-level stuff--the standard algorithms and multiplication tables?

Liz's second epiphany:

I'm also thinking about the cognitive demands of interpreting behavior. I have a dog (a middle-aged, female Golden Retriever) and I'm currently taking care of a friend's dog (a young, female Border Collie). Today I had a guest who is naive about dogs; he was very much concerned about the "aggression" the dogs were displaying. Well, they were playing--play biting, play growling, play chasing. To him, it was fearful aggression; to me, I could easily see by the dogs' respective demeanors that it was just play.

This made me think of Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, often cited as endorsing intuition over analysis.  In fact, it argues that naive intuitions are often wrong, and can be sharpened by long term experience.

Meanwhile, PaulaV wrote:

I certainly never thought I would be interested in reading graphs or stats on cognitive behavior. Yet, one day this changed when my son's principal told me he was unfocused and had a disconnect in math. I've became quite obsessed with finding out all I can on working memory, executive function, processing speed and how it relates to various subjects.

Paula's story shows yet another way in which, as our schools continue abandoning analytical rigor--in both their teaching and their evaluations--we parents must continue picking up their slack.

If you have a left-brained epiphany you'd like to share, please post it as a comment below.