Mental flexors and extensors

Cathleen MacDonald of @divided_brain asks

“we’re creating a free brain health quiz to raise awareness/educate. What issues need attention?”

and my response does not fit in 140 characters:

I trust that this quiz will not become just a personality self-test (“Are you left brained or right-brained?”) like those that entertained us in the 60s but probably damaged the reputation of any consideration of styles, for decades. And I hope it will not be just a test with “true or false” questions and with the goal of accumulating a maximal number of scores — because such an activity would onty cater to the one mode of operation that McGilchrist compares to a bird’s picking of a grain, using narrow focussed attention.

Rather, the attention involved here, should resemble his opposite comparison: an animal’s broad vigilant attention to detect a predator among twigs in the twilight. So, perhaps the linear list of quiz questions could be enriched by some broader, laminar, picture tasks? Such as a ‘busy scenes’ picture (like “Where is Waldo”), or a task with concepts to be connected or rearranged (like my condensr), or an exploration of some dispersed items (like the doors of an Advent calendar) ?

To spot the ‘predator’ of mental health, it is probably not useful to watch out for the extreme symptoms of an unhealthy unbalance of the two modes. Rather, it is necessary to understand how each of these two modes works in the normal, day to day, operation.

Image: Wikipedia

In my view, McGilchrist’s “Master” and “Emissary” modes are the mind’s equivalent of what bending and stretching are for the body: they are both involved in almost every activity, and if they are not in balance, we fall.

So we need to understand the ‘flexors’ and ‘extensors’ of brain operation, and we need to identify their respective contribution to the balance in everyday behaviors.

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3 Responses to Mental flexors and extensors

  1. jennymackness says:

    Thanks for sharing this Matthias – which for some reason didn’t come into my Twitter stream. I agree with your reservations – but I like your constructive suggestions. I do wonder whether Iain McGilchrist has agreed with this. From the course I went on I know that he initially had concerns about the documentary, i.e. that it could potentially diminish 20 years work. I wonder what he thinks of a quiz.

  2. Bonnie says:

    Excellent points and recommendations, Matthias.

    And Jenny, I share Dr. McGilchrist’s reservations about a documentary, and am very much hopeful that the widening audience for his work will offset the narrowing of focus required for a representation of his opus.

  3. x28 says:

    Thank you Jenny and Bonnie for visiting, and for your added perspectives. With such a diverse audience, the narrowing should not do too much harm.

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