“10% Myth”


Have you ever watched one of those action packed thrillers that revolve around a main character who somehow has been able to access parts of the brain that no one has previously been able to access. For example like in the movie “Lucy” when Scarlett Johansson ends up with chemicals in her system that allow her to use more than 10% of her brain. The movie centers around the superhuman abilities she gain from being able to use more of her brain than anyone else. However, the conflict is that she is in harm’s way if she ever reach using 100% of her brain. I realize that “Lucy” is just a movie and that the details of this movie are highly unlikely but I do wonder if we as human use the full capabilities of our brain or rather just 10%. There has been a long going myth about this topic and I want to find out the truth behind just how much of our brains we actually use.
After some research I found that it is likely true indeed that we use more than 10% of our brain. I found out this information not so much from a formal scientific experiment or observers but through the fundamentals of science. On the first day of class we went over why science was important and we continued to explore this matter throughout the semester. In fact when Dr. Jason Wright, a visiting speaker, came to lecture the class he expressed more specifically what made the scientific process so important. The key to science is that is admits ignorance and because it does so there is a process scientist go through to make sure that what that find as factual is actually true. We discussed a few of these step they go through, in class and I discovered that this process could be used to find out if the 10% myth was likely to be true or not.
The steps that we discussed in class included; confirmation bias, logical fallacy, rhetorical danger sign, motivated reasoning, and multiple independent lines of evidence. In the case of finding out whether we only use 10% of our brain that most important things from this list are logical fallacy and multiple independent lines of evidence. As far and logical fallacies go, we believe in the 10% myth because someone once said it and it was picked up by the media and repeated to us continuously. The movies and tv that we watch suggest that the myth is true and psychics who try and push the paranormal on us say it. It’s not so much who is telling us but the fact that some many are telling us it is true. If you look at the sources independently the may not be so believable but when everyone is telling you something it creates a banned wagon effect. You begin to think that it must be true because why else would so many people say it is. The issue with this is that there is no science behind this reasoning; you are just taking people’s word for it. First of to take the word of someone who uses paranormal reasoning can’t be scientifically accurate because science doesn’t use the paranormal to explain fact. Secondly, there is no experiments or observations behind this reason which means it can’t be science. All of this suggest that the 10% myth is likely to be false, but furthermore there are multiple lines of evidence that prove it is false.

Medical advances in technology has allowed us to see that human defiantly use more that 10% of our brains. For one there are test like; EEG’s MRI’s, and PET scan that show us which parts of our brain are active, and it a whole lot more than 10%. Secondly, we know that a neurosurgeon has to map the brain of his or her’s patient before surgery because if they take out too much of a certain region of the brain a person can become physically impaired, disabled, or even brain dead. So if it were the case that we only used 10% percent of our brains mapping wouldn’t be so important because that would mean the majority of our brains were of no use to use. Third, if we only had 10% percent of our brain it would be like having the brain of a sheep, and as far as I know they don’t have the same mental capabilities as an animal. Finally, we have seen through illnesses and disease that losing much less than 90% of your brain’s functioning ability can affect a person drastically. Patients with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease or effect of a stroke may have more than 10% use of their brains and they are still in horrible condition.

So saying as though my hypothesis would be seeing if we do use only use 10% of our brains logical fallacies and multiple lines of evidence would lean more towards either rejecting the hypothesis or accepting the null hypothesis. Being as though logical fallacies are the main source of proof toward only using 10% of our brains and multiple line of evidence suggests we use more than 10% of our brains I can confidently say that I accept the null hypothesis for the time being. But you never know science is ever changing after all.

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1 thought on ““10% Myth”

  1. mzm6020

    Very fascinating post! i’ve been exposed to numerous media that takes this idea and plays with it. To me, the 10% seems like some sort of science fiction like zombies or vampires; there can be so many scenarios where the 10% can act as story plot for a movie or a book. According to your post, it seems that the 10% of the brain seems very fictionalized, yet there may be some truth to it.There are numerous components to the brain such as the cortex, pons, etc. The matter in your brain consists of a certain area, while the electrons in your brain spark up a fraction of it. It might not be the “10%” but there might be come truth to how much of the brain you cannot use. However, i don’t believe that it is only 10%. here is a good article on whether it is possible to unleash more of the mind!

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