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Hemispheric dominance refers to the way in which the two major sides of the brain function and how the processes and thoughts of a person are typically guided by each side. The human brain is, essentially, separated into two major sections referred to as the right brain and left brain. These two sections are connected by a band of tissue, called the corpus collosum, and each half of the brain is responsible for a number of different tasks and modes of thought. Hemispheric dominance refers to which side of the brain is dominant in a person, and this often reflects how a person thinks and learns best.
The basic concept behind hemispheric dominance is that most people tend to naturally be more strongly left-brained or right-brained. Much like most people have a dominant hand, eye, and foot, most people also have a dominant hemisphere of the brain. This is often, but not always, the opposite side from the dominant hand a person has. Someone who is right-handed, for example, will often have left-brain dominance.
Hemispheric dominance helps indicate how a person will learn best and the natural aptitudes he or she may have. The right side of the brain, for example, is often involved in creativity, music and art, symbols and images, and understanding the world through feelings. On the other hand, the left side of the brain is typically involved with language and writing, talking and reading, mathematics, and understanding the world through logic.
By understanding hemispheric dominance, a person may be able to better understand his or her natural learning process. Someone who is right-brained, for example, often learns better by understanding the whole of a concept and then breaking that down into parts. A left-brained individual, on the other hand, often more easily learns components and parts and then can understand how they make up a whole. When teachers and students understand hemispheric dominance and how it pertains to each student, they can often teach and learn materials in a more effective way.
One of the most important aspects of hemispheric dominance, however, is that it is a preference for how a person tends to think and learn, not an absolute rule. Someone may be strongly left-brained, with a natural affinity for mathematics and language, but also demonstrate typical right-brained behavior such as intuition and creativity. It is often considered preferable for a person to learn to be “whole-brained” in order to use both sides of his or her brain as efficiently as possible. Even though certain sides of the brain are dominant with regard to certain activities, research indicates that the entire brain is typically used for most functions.
While there is an advantage to figuring out if a person is "right brained" or "left brained" in terms of finding out how they best learn, there is a tendency to shove people in those camps too rigidly. The truth of the matter is that most people utilize both sides of their brains when acquiring knowledge, so rigidly labeling them as being "right brained" or "left brained" is more than a bit lazy and can stunt the growth of one region or the other.