Pop culture believes that many people believe that we only use 10% of our brain power, and if we “unlock the skills” to take advantage of the remaining power, people will reach new heights. In that other reality, you can either transform into an outstanding genius, or you possess psychic superpowers like reading thoughts or manipulating objects with your brain.
However, the facts aren’t as flashy as they are in the movies: Scientists have strong evidence to dismiss the “10%” thought above, and tests show that we still use most of our brain power every day.
The evidence is abundant, but people still believe in the potential power of the brain. Movies like Limitless or Lucy, with the main character unlocking the hidden powers of the brain, delight viewers by the potential potential of “The most complicated computer in the Universe“. A 2013 study found that 65% of Americans believe in “humans only use 10% of the brain”; a 1998 survey found that one-third of students majoring in psychology – those with a focus on the brain – also believe the claim is ridiculous.
Really spoiled the “10%” statement?
Evidence from neuropsychology
Neuropsychology is a branch of psychology with a specialization in understanding a person’s behavior, emotions, and cognitive abilities. For years, brain scientists have shown us that specific parts of the brain have their own responsibilities, processing their own tasks, from color recognition to problem solving.
Contrary to the story of “10% brain power”, researchers have shown that part of the brain is involved in regulating a person’s activities for a day. Science has yet to find a part of the brain that is completely inactive, and even studies focusing on a single neuron have not shown any areas of the brain that “hibernate”.
Many studies using brain scans show that when participants perform a given task, many parts of their brain work together to solve the problem. For example, when reading these words, the areas of the brain responsible for vision, reading, and the motor ability to hold the phone are more active than other areas.
However, due to misinterpretation, many people unintentionally believe that brain scans support the “myth of 90% of restful brain power”. For example, let’s say you take part in a magnetic resonance imaging test of the brain of a subject watching a movie. When looking at the photo, you will see that the image receiving and processing area will be more active than elsewhere, and also on the photo, these areas will be colored differently than the rest of gray areas. .
These patches usually don’t make up up to 10% of the brain, but an amateur eye looking at the magnetic resonance imaging may think that the rest of the brain is asleep for another area to function. As Joe LeDoux, professor of neuroscience and psychology at New York University, “the brain can be awake at 100% when performing a task, but only a small part that is directly related to the task is active.“. Colors in the CT scan show differences in the activity level of each brain region.
Another evidence that the “use only 10%” claim is false in damaged brains. For example, where Broca’s brain is damaged, it is difficult for a person to match words and speak fluently, yet they can still perceive language. Another example: a woman living in Florida has “lost the ability to think, recognize problems, memory and emotions – what makes human nature” when the lack of oxygen has caused half of the brain. Her brain (about 85% of her brain) died.
Obviously, if we had 90% of the brain power to take advantage of, a brain injury wouldn’t have much of an effect on one’s performance or perception.
Professor Morgan Freeman, what happens when we use 100% of our brain power?
Rebuttal from the theory of evolution
Looking at the evolutionary path, we have another set of evidence that refutes the “10%” claim. The adult brain accounts for 2% of the total body weight but uses up to 20% of the energy produced by the body. By comparison, the adult brains of other vertebrates – including some fish, reptiles, birds and mammals – consume about 2-8% of the energy they produce. .
Through natural selection, our brains have spent millions of years perfecting themselves and leaving behind its most effective life-supporting functions. So the brain uses up to 20% of the energy the body produces and operates at only 10% of its power is not optimal.
Computers are so good that they need a lot of energy to operate.
The origin of the myth
The mystery radiates a gravity of its own, attracting people of a curious nature – that is, humanity in general. Since everyone has a brain, we can’t help but be interested in the hidden capabilities of the most powerful computer the Universe can offer; Everyone wants super power. Consequently, although evidence disproves the story of “10% brain power” exists, many people still believe in baseless myths.
It’s not clear where and when rumors came from, but it’s clear that books, movies, and many other media have popularized the idea of the brain’s latent capabilities. It is true that we do not understand the brain (or perception, ego and other abstractions as well), but the belief in 90% of the hidden power in the brain is based on old brain research, but the book that teaches life is not backed by science.
Books that guide you to live up to your “potential” will often advise you to make full use of your brain’s full potential. Many people hypothesized that the impact of journalist Lowell Thomas “contributed” a great part in spreading the above idea: when evaluating the famous Dale Carnegie’s Dac Nhan Tam book, Mr. Thomas misinterpreted the psychologist’s idea. learns William James and says that an ordinary person “only develops 10% of his latent psychological powers“. In ancient research, William James identified that a person has the potential to grow when using more brain matter.
So does this misconception do any harm?
In addition to annoying many neuroscientists, brain experts, this concept also makes many people believe in the utopia. Many researchers are optimistic that there will be individuals who watch the film who realize that the claims in SCIENCE films are wrong and then have a better view of reality.
At least the movies around the theme, like Limitless or Lucy, are still entertaining, and it’s okay to watch killing time. Unlike the brain twisted movies as we know it, you won’t need 100% brain power to watch those action blockbusters.
See Wired, The Atlantic, ThoughtCo.