Creative VS. Artistic (And Debunking The Right-Brain VS. Left-Brain Myth)

For the longest time I used to consider myself  a “right-brain” person. I came to this conclusion because to my knowledge the right side of the brain is best at expressive and creative tasks while the left side is best at logical and analytical thinking. Since always, my main interests have always involved art. I have done it all: painting, dancing, photography, music, filmmaking… and I love all of it. My passions have always had an artistic focus and would never consider any kind of career in say, economics, political science, or math. It’s just not me. Therefore, I am a “right-brain” thinker, right? Wrong.

It is time that we spread the word about the mistaken popular idea that people are more right or left brain thinkers. Fact is, science has never supported this notion, and in fact has proved it wrong.

This is how it all started:

“The right brain – left brain theory originated in the work of Roger W. Sperry. In the 1960s, while studying the effects of epilepsy, Sperry discovered that cutting the corpus callosum could reduce or eliminate seizures.

Because the corpus callosum connects the two hemispheres of the brain, the left and right sides of these patients’ brains could no longer communicate. Many split-brain patients found themselves unable to name objects that were processed by the right side of the brain, but were able to name objects that were processed by the left-side of the brain. Based on this information, Sperry suggested that language was controlled by the left-side of the brain.”

The truth is, everyone uses both sides of their brain equally, and this has been proven by recent studies and research, like this study proving that math is strongest when both sides are used.

It is true that some brain functions take place in one or the other side of the brain, but people don’t really have a stronger side. Carl Zimmer explains with an example:

“No matter how lateralized the brain can get, though, the two sides still work together. The pop psychology notion of a left brain and a right brain doesn’t capture their intimate working relationship. The left hemisphere specializes in picking out the sounds that form words and working out the syntax of the words, for example, but it does not have a monopoly on language processing. The right hemisphere is actually more sensitive to the emotional features of language, tuning in to the slow rhythms of speech that carry intonation and stress.”

The myth has been officially debunked

Scientists at the University of Utah have analyzed more than 1,000 brains. They found no evidence that people make more use of their left or right brain. All of the participants showed that their entire brain was used equally throughout the course of the experiment.

Regardless, I don’t think it is totally wrong to describe yourself as right or left brain to tell others a little about yourself.

Creative VS Artistic

To me, it made sense that it turned out to be a myth as I always struggled with the fact that I wasn’t a very creative artist. It has been always hard for me to come up with ideas out of nowhere, make stories up, and be inventive (one of the reasons why I am a bad liar); but I am highly artistic as I mentioned at the beginning of the post.

scream reproduction art by mani villafane
See what I did here? I created a “happy”spin on Edvard Munch’s anxiety portrayal “The Scream”.

I think of myself as a fairly “technical artist”. I love recreating things and putting my own spin on them, I love taking photographs of “reality” but editing them for an artistic feel (heck I’ve even painted over photographs), I love filmmaking but I am terrible at scriptwriting fiction. I love dancing, I am great at it and I love getting lost in the music, but I need someone to provide me with the choreography. With all of these thoughts, plus finding out about the left and right brain myth, I came to the conclusion that one can be artistic but not necessarily very creative. Like me.

My two-sided brain gets confirmed as I could describe myself as:

  • artistic
  • intuitive
  • visual
  • non-verbal
  • arbitrary
  • planner
  • realistic
  • organized
  • objective

Can you tell the list includes characteristics that describe both sides of the brain?

Pencil Vs Camera by Ben Heine

I think that there is a misconception that the words creative and artistic go hand in hand and it is why some people struggle because they don’t think they are very creative just because they can only draw stick people and have dance moves that shouldn’t be seen in public.

Being artistic connotes a physical skill (painting, sculpting, etc), and being creative is more of a mental skill. You can be creative and imagine a sculpture that has never been made but not have the talent to actually create it, on the other hand you might be able to carve anything that someone shows you, but not be able to come up with a unique design.

My husband is the opposite of me as he is a computer programmer solving problems all day and he’s kind of a terrible designer, but I consider him to be more creative than me because he has the ability to come up with ideas to solve any problem, and he is a much better story-teller than myself.

I think you get my point.

Did you know it was a myth? Nonetheless, are you more “right” or “left” brain? Are you creative or artistic, or both?
Sources: 1  2

This post was inspired in response to this week’s IBQ Writing Prompt: Focus.


19 thoughts on “Creative VS. Artistic (And Debunking The Right-Brain VS. Left-Brain Myth)

  1. I’ve always struggled with the thought, “What if I’m not creative?” It’s one of my greatest fears…because I want to be creative. Right now I think I’m more of a technical artist, though.

  2. Like you, I’m what you describe as a “technical artist.” However, I’d never describe myself as an artist. I’ve never been the type to come up with something out of the blue and create it. I take inspiration from things and combine them or morph them or modify them into what I’d like it to be. Re: brain lateralization… for my job, I help people who’ve had brain injuries. One aspect of left-right brain lateralization that remains true is the treatment methods we use to treat right or left hemisphere injuries. True, we never exclusively use just one side of our brain. We can definitely call upon the unaffected side to help heal the affected side; however, our treatment methods vary. This, to me, still indicates the dominance of characteristics/function of each hemisphere. Great post!

  3. I had no idea that the right/left brain thing was a myth! I like the idea of creative and artistic being two different things because I’ve always felt I’m not creative because I have no artistic abilities (or dance moves).

      1. Thank you! Now I can be free to feel creative with that little voice saying, “you’re not creative. You don’t have an artistic bone in your body.” 🙂

  4. It seems you and I are opposites. I am more left-brain than right (I have a science background BSc./MSc.) and while I consider myself creative I am not very artistic but I have been stretching that part of myself lately. I’m also a very social introvert 🙂 Great post.

  5. Love this. Brain stuff always intrigues me. I’m sort of a paradox because I’m the most structured and organized person who is also incredibly creative and artistic. Seriously, I baffle myself sometimes. The way I got my head around it was by saying that I live by structure but I enjoy living by creating. Though, my creating is definitely done in a structured way. Again, I’m not sure how that works but somehow it all just does. I can’t live without structure or creativity. I’d go bonkers without them.

  6. oh man. sharing now. no idea it was a myth! i was an accountant and now that I’ve given that up, I have SOO much creativity flowing, which I had before but it felt stifled.

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