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How Our Brains Make the World.

Key Points

* Despite staggering improvements in material well-being, people are markedly less happy than they were 50 years ago. Much of this reduction in happiness can be traced to a loss of meaning in everyday life as relations between individuals, communities, and nature continue to deteriorate. How have we come to this? Look to the brain.

* The left and right hemispheres of the brain do many of the same things in practice, but they see the world in remarkably different ways. The left hemisphere dissects and manipulates the world while the right hemisphere takes context and the broader panorama of human experience into account.

* Modern society has become, in many ways, left-brain dominant. We are good at manipulating the worid but are increasingly inept at infusing it with meaning. To correct this deficiency, we must restore a proper balance between the two hemispheres--one that celebrates utility but prioritizes context and purpose.
How is it that the more able man becomes to manipulate the world to his
advantage, the less he can perceive any meaning in it? This is a
paradox that has often been noted, and has sometimes been attributed to
a fundamental perversity, a sort of "pure cussedness", in human nature.
                                                        --Owen Barfield

The world has changed since the philosopher Owen Barfield wrote those words some 40 years ago. But the paradox, as he calls it, has got no nearer to being resolved, while the evidence has continued to accumulate that his hunch was right. Learning to manipulate the world does indeed appear somehow connected with its loss of meaning. Why? And does it even matter?

Despite the brittle optimism constantly proclaimed by advertising and not infrequently by government spokesmen, the defining mood of the modern era is one of disappointment. That is not just my opinion: It is as near a fact as such things can be. People are measurably less happy today than they were 50 years ago, when we first started measuring, despite staggering improvements in material well-being. There is much to feel proud of, of course, advances in conquering disease being just one example, and we live longer--prompting the question: For what? We know so much, we can make so much happen, and we certainly invest much in the attempt to control our destinies. And yet, if we are honest, we feel as though it all ought somehow to have added up to--more than this. If we permitted ourselves to think in such a way, we might say that we feel as though we were destined for something better, something greater--something more than "reality" TV, Facebook, and the annual pilgrimage to the sun. "Man is the dwarf of himself," as Emerson already saw.

We have come to believe that really--when the chips are down, when we have stopped trying to cheer ourselves up by believing that there is still room to believe in virtue, love, courage, truly unselfish behavior, or even a realm of spiritual value--really we are nothing but blind mechanisms, the dupes of our equally blind genes, with no choice but to play out a sorry farce of cruelty and self-deceit. In other words, the world is without meaning. And if we read meaning into it--well, we are frail and somehow not properly grown up.

So far, so familiar. Nonetheless, I want to suggest to you that this vision is less compelling than it looks. Logically less compelling. I think there is in fact evidence that it may itself be a cruel deception, one that we have been far too gullible in swallowing. And I think in fact the explanation may have something to do with the evolution of our brains.

Brains cannot tell us what, how, or why we are what we are, but they may tell us about what it is we might be missing.

The Divided Brain

Our present apparently "smart" take on the world has arguably led to the global degradation and destruction of nature; the breaking up of complex, close-knit communities and their ways of living in harmony with nature that took millennia to form; and the substitution all over the world with a way of life that is far from fulfilling and morally pretty much bankrupt--a way devoted to the pursuit of pleasure and happiness, but delivering anxiety and systemic dissatisfaction. And it has led to the loss of the important sense of uniqueness, as all becomes disembodied, generalized, categorized, mechanized, represented, and rendered virtual.

And where does the brain come into it? If we take a look at the brain, lying there on the pathologist's slab, the first thing that will strike us is that, despite millions of years of evolution, it has remained deeply divided. And that is odd since the whole purpose of the brain as we understand it is to make connections. Evolution would never have sacrificed the apparent advantages of massively greater interconnectivity, unless there were a commanding advantage in, at the same time, keeping some things apart. What was that?

Because of the vulgarization of the topic of hemisphere differences, scientists had until recently largely given up trying to find an answer, especially since the old answers--the left "does" reason and language, while the right "does" emotion and pictures--turned out to be wrong, since both hemispheres, it soon became clear, are involved in absolutely everything we do. But the question will not go away and has, I believe, a profoundly interesting answer.

We understand something only by comparing it with something else that we think we already understand better. We had modeled the hemisphere as part of a machine, a mechanical part of a mechanical body. But if instead we had seen it as part of a person, we would immediately have noticed that we were asking the wrong question. Instead of asking, as of a machine, what it does--does it "do" reason, emotion, language, imagery?--we should have asked, as of part of a person, what's he or she like? How--in other words, with what values or interests, in what manner, in what way, and to what end--did it do what it did?

If we ask this question, we find a pervasive pattern, giving rise to an entirely coherent picture. The key lies in the attention we pay to the world.

Every animal, in order to survive, has to solve a conundrum: how to eat without being eaten. It has to pay precisely focused, narrow-beam attention that is already committed to whatever is of interest to it, so as to exploit the world for food and shelter. Put at its simplest, a bird must be able to distinguish a seed from the background of gravel on which it lies and pick it up swiftly and accurately. Similarly with a twig to build a nest. Yet, if the bird is to survive, it must also, at one and the same time, pay another kind of attention to the world, which is the precise opposite of the first: broad, open, sustained, vigilant attention, uncommitted as to what it will find, on the lookout for predators or conspecifics, for friend or foe.

How on earth can one attend to the world in two conflicting ways at one and the same time? The answer is the evolution of two distinct, but conjoined, brain hemispheres, each capable of sustaining consciousness on its own. We need two neuronal masses, separate enough to function independently, but connected enough to work in concert with one another: the bipartite brain.

In birds and other animals studied, there is a highly significant separation of attention, with the left hemisphere being used largely for paying narrow-beam, sharply focused attention to the world for the purpose of manipulation and the right hemisphere for paying open, sustained, vigilant attention to the world, in order to understand and relate to the bigger picture. The right is also the hemisphere with which creatures approach, appraise, and ultimately bond with their mates.

Attention, it must be realized, is not just another "cognitive function": It is the disposition adopted by one's consciousness toward the world. Absent, present, detached, engaged, alienated, empathic, broad or narrow, sustained, or piecemeal, it therefore has the power to alter whatever it meets. The play of attention can both create and destroy, but it never leaves its object unchanged. So how you attend to something--or do not attend to it--matters a great deal.

By paying a certain kind of attention, you can humanize or dehumanize, cherish or strip of all value. By a kind of alienating, fragmenting, and focal attention, you can reduce humanity--or art, sex, humor, or religion--to nothing. You can so alienate yourself from a poem that you stop seeing the poem at all and instead come to see in its place just theories, messages, and formal tropes; stop hearing the music and hear only tonalities and harmonic shifts; stop seeing the person and see only the machine--all because of the plane of attention. More than that, when such a state of affairs comes about, you are no longer aware that there is a problem at all. For you do not see what it is you cannot see.

Nothing ever comes to attention as an unformed percept: We always see something "as" a something, whether we are aware of it or not. (2) And that "as" is always a partial truth with practical consequences for the encounter. For instance, there is no one way of "truly" seeing the body. I have a different experience of what the human body is depending on whether the body is that of a patient, the suspect in a crime I am investigating, my aunt, an artist's model, or my lover. Each calls forth, and expects to receive, a different kind of attention, which governs what, in the end, it is that I experience.

Behind the house where I live there is a mountain whose description in Norse, t-hallr skjaer, "the sloping rock," is said to have given the place its name, Talisker. What this tells us is that, for the early Viking settlers in this remote part of the Scottish islands, the mountain was a valued landmark clearly recognizable by its sloping outline from the sea. Still earlier, for the Picts whose ruined brochs show that they had lived in its shadow, it had meant both human shelter and the home of the gods; later, for 18th- and 19th-century travelers, it was a many-textured form of beauty to be engraved or painted. To the geologist, it is a notable example of columnar basalt formation; to a speculator, it is a potential source of wealth; to a physicist it is 99.99 percent space, populated sparsely by particles of we know not what, that have only probabilistic existence there at all.

Which of these is the "real" mountain? Each way of attending produces a mountain seen "as" something different. None of these ways can be said to be the "real" way, for each is partial, and yet they are not illusory either. Neither is it "really just a lump of rock," because that is--far from being an escape from subjectivity--to jump into it headlong. It is just another partial way of seeing the mountain, the reductionist view: full of attitude, unexpressed goals, and values and, while certainly seeing something, for most purposes leaving everything important out.

That attitude becomes particularly troublesome when one reaches the living, because here, too, there is a naive assumption that the most reduced description is somehow the most real: We are really "just" aggregates of cells, genes, or particles at whatever level of breakdown one likes to pause the analysis. (It really does not matter which because there is always another level to go to on the way down to the completely unknown, at which point one has nothing and can say nothing: Choose your own.) The deception in this vanishing trick seems particularly hard to spot for those who pride themselves on their lack of self-deception.

Of course, what we find will govern what kind of attention we deem it appropriate to pay. But just as importantly, how we attend to the world governs what it is that we find.

So a radically different kind of attention brings us into contact with a radically altered world. One way of looking at hemisphere difference would be to say that while the left hemisphere's raison d'etre is to narrow things down to a certainty, the right hemisphere's is to open them up into possibility. In life we need both. In fact for practical purposes, narrowing things down to a certainty, so that we can grasp them, is more helpful. But it is also illusory, since certainty itself is an illusion--albeit, as I say, a useful one.

The Left Hemisphere's World

An important consequence of narrow-focus attention is that it renders everything explicit. Just as a joke is robbed of power when it has to be explained, metaphors and symbols lose their power when rendered explicit. And metaphor is not a decorative turn, applied on top of the serious business of language in order to entertain: All knowledge, perhaps especially philosophical and scientific knowledge, is at bottom metaphorical in nature. It is just that we are so familiar with the metaphors that we do not notice their existence. It is metaphors that carry us across (that is what the word "metaphor" means, from the Greek meta- and pherein) the implied gap between language and the world and make what would otherwise be a hermetically sealed system of signs capable of meaning something in terms of the embodied world. They are how we understand everything. Explicitness kills, renders lifeless.

An act of sexual love, or of worship, reveals little of its true self in the lab, seen through an observation window. I first noticed this when I was involved with the study and teaching of literature. Once you have taken the apparent message out of context and examined the language of a poem as a distinct entity, you are left with a handful of dust. That poem of Hardy--which, if it had not existed, could never have been imagined and which cannot be substituted by anything else in the universe--is reduced to a heap of general sentiments I could have heard somewhere else a hundred times over, apparently clothed in language that is clunky, quirky, and far from properly polished. And yet when understood and experienced implicitly, it can alter your life.

Another way of thinking of the difference is to see the left hemisphere's world as tending toward fixity, where that of the right tends toward flow. All systems in nature--from particles to the greater universe, in the world of cellular processes, and in all living things--depend on a necessary balance of the forces for stasis and the forces for flow. All existing things could be thought of as the product of this fruitful tension. But again, stasis is an illusion, helpful though it is in grasping the world on the wing.

The left hemisphere's take on things comes from assessing thousands of points of information and trying to reach a conclusion about the whole picture that way. This has the profoundest consequences for the way it sees the world, when contrasted with the take of the right hemisphere, which sees things as a whole, never as isolated particles independent of a context. Of course we do not actually build things up in the way that the left hemisphere imagines. That illusion comes from the fact that when we ask ourselves how we understood something, our linear-processing left hemisphere comes up with the only way it knows, the way it would have had to do it if asked. But fortunately we do not often ask it. By seeing isolated points the left hemisphere imagines that there are atomistically distinct entities, rather than seeing everything embedded in its context, which radically changes its nature: part of a web of interconnections.

Together, this partwise method of understanding and resistance to the idea of things flowing and changing go some way to explain the left hemisphere's affinity for what is mechanical or inanimate. Only the left hemisphere codes for tools and machines--you will remember that the purpose of the left hemisphere is to allow us to manipulate the world, not to understand it. Six separate studies have examined the issue, and each has found this to be the case. One found a complete divide, animate in the right, inanimate in the left. So marked is this effect that even the left-hander, who in daily life is using his or her right hemisphere to manipulate tools and machines, nonetheless codes for them in the left. In the past we would naturally model the world according to organic metaphors--the tree, the river, the family. Now we model everything the left hemisphere's way, mechanically. Once again no one could pretend that this is more true to the world; it is just a handy shortcut, which enables us to model very well some aspects of it for practical purposes, but radically excludes others.

This way of thinking brings us to a further related issue: differences over the unique and the general, quality versus quantity. The right hemisphere seems to be involved more with new experience--new events, things, ideas, words, skills, music, or whatever it may be--while they are still fresh and, so to speak, present to the mind. By contrast, the left hemisphere's world becomes involved once whatever it is is familiar and known, as an instance of something, a concept. It abstracts and generalizes, where the right hemisphere's world remains truer to what is embodied and appreciates the unique. The process of categorization is a rough and ready take on the world, a way of helping us interact with the world swiftly and efficiently. But it is hiding the true nature of experienced reality. V. S. Ramachandran calls the right hemisphere the devil's advocate, because it is always interested in the particular, upsetting the left hemisphere's tendency to collapse unlike into like.

The left hemisphere's world is a representation only. It is like a map, very useful because almost all the information about the land to which it refers has been left out. For some purposes less is more. If I am traveling from DC to West Virginia, I really do not need to know all about the houses along the way, what the people there like for supper, how they treat their dogs, and what sort of plants they have in their garden. This is vital for an understanding of the real world, the terrain, but not good for mastering the territory. It is no use for making a road trip.

The Right Hemisphere's World

I would say the defining quality of the right hemisphere's world is that it lies in relations, what I call "betweenness." This starts with its having a relationship with the world at large, not seeing it as a separate object, ripe for manipulation. In this it is like music. Music does not exist in a particular note--which is in itself meaningless--or in a lot of such single notes, each in itself meaningless. I am tempted to say it exists more in the spaces than in the notes: The spaces between successive notes in pitch--that creates the melody. The spaces between simultaneously sounding notes--that is the harmony. The spaces in time between the beats--that makes the rhythm. But that too is wrong, because the spaces are just silence, apparently nothing. It is not in the spaces or the notes, but in the spaces and the notes together, much as electricity is not in the positive pole, or the negative pole, or for that matter just in the space between them, but in the whole taken together.

While this may sound poetical (by the way, I have a high regard for the truths that poetry helps unconceal), it is also what mathematics consists of as much as music, and it is what physics tells us the world is made of--not a universe of billiard balls pinging off one another in predictable ways. And it is what the human world, rightly understood, is made of, too. We are not atoms, nor mixtures, but compounds with rich emergent properties, nowhere dreamed of in the single human heart.

Knowing and Experiencing

Essentially, if I had to sum it all up, I would say something like this. Experience is forever in motion, ramifying, and unpredictable. In order for us to know anything at all, that thing must have enduring properties. If all things flow and one can never step into the same river twice, one will always be taken unaware by experience, since nothing is ever repeated, nothing can ever be known. We have to find a way of fixing it as it flies, stepping back from the immediacy of experience, stepping outside the flow.

Hence, the brain has to attend to the world in two completely different ways and in so doing bring two different worlds into being. In the one, we experience--the live, complex, embodied, world of individual, always unique beings, forever in flux, a net of interdependencies, forming and reforming wholes, a world with which we are deeply connected. In the other we "experience" our experience in a special way--a "re-presented" version of it, containing now static, separable, bounded, but essentially fragmented entities, grouped into classes, on which predictions can be based. This kind of attention isolates, fixes, and makes each thing explicit by bringing it under the spotlight of attention. In doing so it renders things inert, mechanical, lifeless. But it also enables us for the first time to know and consequently to learn and to make things. This gives us power. It cannot, however, lead to an understanding of what it is we are dealing with. It knows nothing of what this all means. And that in turn makes our sense of control illusory: Our sense that we understand things is inversely proportional to the level of our understanding.

But the most curious aspect of the story of the left hemisphere is yet to come. It turns on how a self-consistent system of signs, such as the left hemisphere's world, can come to seem more real than the lived world itself.

I want to convince you that this is, in biological fact, specifically the take of the left hemisphere. The left hemisphere is captivated by the systems that it has itself set up and prioritizes the internal consistency of its processing over anything actually going on in the real world. And here there is a very nice piece of research looking at syllogisms. To remind you, a syllogism is a set of propositions leading to a conclusion. Thus: All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; Socrates is mortal.

Now take the following example of a syllogism with a false premise.

1. Major premise: All monkeys climb trees.

2. Minor premise: The porcupine is a monkey.

3. Implied conclusion: The porcupine climbs trees.

Well--does it? As Deglin and Kinsbourne demonstrated, (3) experimentally isolating one hemisphere of their subjects at a time, each hemisphere has its own way of approaching this question. At the outset of their experiment, the intact individual is asked "Does the porcupine climb trees?" She replies (using, of course, both hemispheres): "It does not climb, the porcupine runs on the ground; it's prickly, it's not a monkey."

During experimental temporary hemisphere inactivations, the left hemisphere of the very same individual (with the right hemisphere inactivated) replies that the conclusion is true: "The porcupine climbs trees since it is a monkey." When the experimenter asks, "But is the porcupine a monkey?" she replies that she knows it is not. When the syllogism is presented again, however, she is a little nonplussed, but replies in the affirmative since "That's what is written on the card."

When the right hemisphere of the same individual (with the left hemisphere inactivated) is asked if the syllogism is true, she replies: "How can it climb trees--it's not a monkey, it's wrong here!" If the experimenter points out that the conclusion must follow from the premises stated, she replies indignantly: "But the porcupine is not a monkey!"

I am reminded, not just here, but constantly as I go about life in the modern Western world, of a story published in 1927 by Yuri Tynyanov called Lieutenant Kizhe. The story concerns an error of transcription in an official military list, whereby one Lieutenant Kizhe is recorded, who, however, never existed. Despite this apparent drawback, Lieutenant Kizhe plays a starring role in subsequent military reports, rises through the ranks (where he never gets into trouble and is known for his dependability), marries, fathers a child, is decorated for bravery, and finally finds himself promoted by the tsar to the rank of general. Mysteriously, when the tsar demands to meet this human paragon, he cannot be found. The tsar, in despair, mutters "Sic transit gloria mundi" and accords him a state funeral. Meanwhile, a Lieutenant Sinyukhaev, who was years ago wrongly recorded as dead, struggles fruitlessly to assert that, contrary to received opinion, he is very much alive, and he ends up a vagabond on the highways of Russia, relying on the charity of strangers.

In the contemporary world, where I fear we are currently in thrall to the left hemisphere's way of thinking, this problem--that the piece of paper has become more important than the reality that it refers to--is endemic. Surgeons have a saying that is, I sometimes think, only half facetious: "The operation was a success, but the patient died." At least there was an operation. Nowadays the operation is scarcely required, as long as the box was ticked. That way success is assured because "that's what it says on this sheet of paper."

In life we need the contributions of both hemispheres. As Kant memorably put it, concepts without intuitions are empty; intuitions without concepts are blind. We need the contributions of both, but for different purposes. An uncritical following of intuition can lead us astray, but so can an uncritical following of logic. The reasoning of those who have spent their lives attending wisely to their intuitions is better than that of those who have never done so, and the intuitions of someone who has spent a life attending to reason will be better than those of someone who has not. Here again we come up against one of the defining differences between the two hemispheres: The right hemisphere is perfectly happy with "both/and"--sees in fact how necessary that is in understanding the world. The left hemisphere, by contrast, says: "What's the matter? Can't you make up your mind?" It has to be either/or, black or white, never a life within the full color spectrum.

Do we just have to shrug our shoulders and say: "There are these two views of the world. Choose which one suits you best"? That would be at least a step forward because, at the moment, we are increasingly discounting one of these world views altogether, that of the right hemisphere, and as they say, half a loaf is better than no bread. But fortunately we do not have to choose: There is something of supreme value that each contributes to our experience of the world. But for understanding it, I think we can go further. For the relationship between the two hemispheres is not symmetric. They are not symmetrically anything, so why would they be symmetrically wise? Of the two, one is of greater importance when it comes, not to manipulating the world, but to understanding it, living in it and with it. The right hemisphere is the one that knows and, more importantly, the one that understands more.

I want to suggest that there is a kind of madness associated with slavish following of procedures and rules and with imagining that life follows a sort of mechanical logic. I am not, of course, in favor of abandoning logic, attention to facts, or clear expression. In fact, as is often pointed out to me, making the case I have put forward in The Master and His Emissary depended on each of these. It is the left hemisphere that furnishes our quick and dirty reactions to the world--rough and ready approximations that help us get by, but will not do when the situation involves new information or something that is not accounted for within its own formal system.

And in its own terms these systems are closed. Newtonian mechanics is a good approximation in the everyday world, but not a guide to how matter actually operates outside that framework. It makes us think the world is predictable because in certain circumscribed circumstances it seems to be so. But it does not help us where there is unpredictability: The flap of a butterfly's wings in Barbados can cause a storm in China. There are black swans. And this is the real world, not the apparently predictable model.

The left hemisphere does not realize its own limitations. Neither does logic if unassisted. It does not know, in a Rumsfeldian moment, what it is that it does not know.

Let me sum up, before making some concluding remarks about where we are now. It used to be said, according to the popular cliche, that though the left hemisphere may lack charm, it is solid, down to earth, realistic, and a sure path to the truth. But this is not at all the case. The left hemisphere is not in touch with the world. It is not reasonable. It is not good at understanding the world. It is good for only one thing: manipulating the world. Its vision is partial and associated with representation and virtuality. It neglects the incarnate nature of human beings, reducing them to the equivalent of brains in a vat. It reduces the living to the mechanical. It prioritizes always the procedure, not its meaning. And it requires certainty where none can be found.

The world, meanwhile, is not like the left hemisphere's models. The financial collapse was a perfect example of the following of algorithms that had been "proved" to work in the abstract and was repeatedly marked by self-referential loops of reasoning that cut it off from the real world outside the window. Medicine and education are not about "getting" a "product." Education is about the evolution of a relationship between teacher and pupil and between the mind that is learning and the world it is learning about, in which something always original and unpredictable comes about. Knowing a lot is a necessary condition, but by no means a sufficient one, of being a teacher or, for that matter, a doctor.

In the world of research, we now have to be able to say in advance what we are expecting to find, and no one will fund a project unless it looks like having a chance of turning up a "positive" finding, which in reality means that it must be something pretty close to what we already know. We are not prepared to trust, but feel we must micro-control.

More generally, despite apparently having at least secured ourselves some leisure (for what, by the way?), we now find ourselves slaves of the machine that was to liberate us, working longer hours and longer years, while the work itself gets less intrinsically rewarding: more controlled, less skill-dependent, lacking an obvious purpose other than the accumulation of more wealth.

Concluding Remarks

If I am right that we are living in the West in a culture dominated by the left hemisphere's take on the world, how did this come about? Surely, you may say, it is because it has proved itself more successful than any of the alternatives. Well, that all depends on what you mean by success. It is, I repeat, a culture that is very good at using the world as if it were a heap of resource, good at manipulating the environment to fit our plans. But are our plans necessarily wise?

I think its success can be attributed to several things. It makes you powerful, and power is seductive. It offers simple explanations that are in their own terms convincing because what does not fit the plan is simply declared to be meaningless. For example, to declare talk of "consciousness" a linguistic error is certainly simple. It may not, however, satisfy the more skeptical of us.

Moreover, the left hemisphere does the speaking and constructs the arguments in its own favor. And ultimately, since the Industrial Revolution, we have constructed a world around us that is the image of the world the left hemisphere has made internally. Appeals to the natural world, the history of a culture, art, and spirituality--routes that used to lead out of the hall of mirrors--have been cut off, undercut, and ironized out of existence, and when we look out of the window, we see more of the world we had created in our minds extended in concrete all around us.

The left hemisphere's values are those of utility and pleasure. But meaning cannot come from this linear project, any more than happiness can be pursued. Happiness and fulfillment, as the philosopher Jon Elster has beautifully demonstrated, have to be the byproducts of something else, of looking elsewhere. This was a point made by Viktor Frankl in his great book, Man's Search for Meaning. If we espouse the view of the left hemisphere, we will never find meaning because it cannot understand. It has no way to break out of the system of signs. It does not understand the power of metaphor, through which alone meaning would come about. It is not in touch. That is not its purpose, not what it evolved to help us do. It evolved to help us manipulate.

And here, finally, is I think an answer of a kind to Barfield's question of why, though we know more and more about how to manipulate, we have lost all sense of the meaning of our world. The left hemisphere's world is a reflexive world, which refers us back internally, not outward to the embodied world. It does not care to turn its attention to the world outside the window--where a porcupine is, whatever it says on the piece of paper, not a monkey, and Lieutenant Kizhe is a fraud.

By Iain McGilchrist

January 2019

About the Author

Iain McGilchrist is an associate fellow of Green Templeton College of Oxford University, a fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a consultant emeritus of the Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital, London. His books include Ways of Attending: How Our Divided Brain Constructs the World (Routledge, 2018) and The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning: Why Are We So Unhappy? (Yale University Press, 2012). He is currently writing a book on the philosophical implications of brain lateralization for Penguin Random House.


(1.) Owen Barfield, "The Rediscovery of Meaning," Saturday Evening Post, January 7,1961.

(2.) Not even the neonate is a blank slate.

(3.) V. L. Dcglin and M. Kinsboumc, "Divergent Thinking Styles of the Hemispheres: How Syllogisms Are Solved During Transitory Hemisphere Suppression," Brain and Cognition 31, no. 3 (August 1996): 285-307.
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Author:McGilchrist, Iain
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Date:Jan 1, 2019
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