In the movie Phenomenon (1986), John Travolta can instantly learn foreign languages while he gains the ability to predict earthquakes. Bradly Cooper can write a whole novel overnight in Limitless (2001) while in Lucy (2014), Scarlett Johansson becomes a martial-arts superpowered master. How did they all accomplish their skills? They managed to awake the remaining, dormant 90 percent of their brain!
The idea that people only use 10 percent of their brains has been around for decades and a favorite among movie producers and the public. In fact, according to a survey, almost two-thirds of Americans (65 percent) believe that it’s true. Is this the case though?
Let’s look at the facts. (the article continues after the ad)
Although it looks amusing, this statement is just a myth – people use all of their brain, all of the time. And here’s how we know it. Imaging techniques, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) or positron emission tomography (PET), allow us, in real time, to map brain activity. By analyzing all the data, scientists have yet to locate a brain area that doesn’t do anything. Even for simple tasks, the imaging scans reveal that large areas (way greater than 10 percent) are used when performing activities such as looking at photos or making a coffee. For more complex tasks, such as solving a math problem, the brain area that’s being used is significantly larger.
But this should come as no surprise as it just proves the natural selection theory. We all know that natural selection discourages useless anatomical structures therefore, it makes no sense to carry around an organ that only 10 percent of it works, right? Natural selection would have shrunken our brains and all those amounts of excess brain tissue, would have been used for things that are more critical for survival, such as tougher immune systems or stronger muscles.
So how did we end up with that myth?
One of the earliest mentions was in a 1936 book by Dale Carnegie’s called “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. Ever since, the idea that we can achieve more by controlling a larger part of our brain has inspired motivational gurus, fantasy film screenwriters and New Age hucksters.
Unfortunately, neither you nor I will become a genius overnight. Hard work still works but don’t rely on activating your remaining brain to gain superpowers because it’s already activated!