Congresswoman Gabby Giffords makes a surprise return
to Congress on 1 August after having suffered a gunshot
wound to the head in January.
Photo from Congresswoman Chellie Pingree’s website.
How many times have you heard the popular bit of wisdom, “we only use 10% of our brains”?
Although Gabrielle Giffords certainly wouldn’t be a compelling disproof of the “10%” assertion due to the extent of her injuries, all the attention given to her situation does provide an excellent opportunity to make an obvious counterpoint.
Since even the smallest of brain injuries seems to have measurable effects, actual brain utilization would seem to be closer to 100% than 10.
So why does the “10%” myth persist?
My guess is the notion has payoffs. Here are a few:
The idea that people only use 10% of their brains . . .
1. enhances the use of guilt, shame, and pride as motivational techniques. (Think of the slogan, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.”)
2. supports (1) Gnostic and (2) elitist notions that certain people have special powers due to their elevated brain utilization. (Think Deepak Chopra and Barack Obama.)
3. supports (1) UFO enthusiasts and (2) special creationists in their assertions that humans could not have evolved here on Earth. (A good conclusion, but not necessarily a good argument.)
4. . . . (You get the picture.)
But truth is everyone uses just about all of his or her brain.
The thing that goes largely unused is not the brain, but the mind– thus we have the wry but very true observation . . .
“Many people don’t have minds worth making up.”
What to do?
You can’t change your brain, but you can change your mind.
Minds are shaped by conversations within communities.
Communities can be preoccupied with big ideas or small ones.
Changing the mind means having different conversations.
Having different conversations often means changing one’s community.