Sunday, October 28, 2012

Voting with your Left or Right Brain

Voting with your Left or Right Brain

[The seventh and last past of the Teeter Totter of the Brain series is coming. Due to the coming election I wanted to get this idea out. I’ll get the last post out in the next week. Then, I’ll go off this brain stuff for a while.]

One side of your brain will probably pull the lever when you vote on November 6. Each side of your brain holds a world view separate from the other. If you are living in the left side of your brain, you will probably vote conservative. If you vote for the liberal ticket, you’re probably using your right brain. This election is as divided as the country; as split the two sides of your brain. If we all continue to live in one side of our brain or the other, we will remain divided.

The front part of our brains is divided into two hemispheres, called the left and right brain. They think differently. It’s not about what they do, but how. It’s about process rather than function. Simply, the left brain focuses on one thing at a time, while the right brain takes in everything at once. These ‘one at a time’ versus ‘all at one time’ processes create conflict. Each side offers unique and necessary abilities; they collaborate on all advanced tasks; and they fight for control. [For more information on this read my series on The Teeter Totter of our Brain.]

The division between the left and right is deeply entwined in our culture. We didn’t know the sides of our brains controlled the opposite sides of the body when we began calling the Republicans the Right and the Democrats the Left otherwise we would have reversed it. In the past thirty years, the liberal/progressives have become more solidly in their right brains, while the conservatives have dug into their left brains.

Voting with your Right Brain
The right brain likes new ideas and multiple solutions. Thinking “all at one time,” it entertains different points of view. It sees the grey area of all arguments. This is the reason the Democratic Party has a hard time getting behind one idea. All ideas should be given consideration.

The right brain argues that since there is not one right way, individuals should have choice. How can we choose for you when there is no such a thing as a right way?

Thinking “all at one time” helps you to see the commonality between yourself and the ‘other.’ You become more accepting. The right brain includes those who have become ‘other’ in the society, including Women, African-Americans, Latinos, and Homosexuals. The right brain embraces this paradox that while you are different you are still part of us. We live in a pluralistic society where the existence of many groups makes up the one society. The right brain is feminine in thinking.

The right brain emphasizes the group over the individual. It promotes that we are all working together to make this country and we must help all of the members. The right brain tends toward socialism and supports systems that allow everyone to be treated the same.

The right brain takes in stimuli from the external world. It supports the evidence of science though is wary of the abstract theories of scientists. It sees itself as a part of and entwined with nature. This drives liberals to fight for the environment.

Voting with your Left Brain
The left brain looks for the right solution and commits to it. It does not like and cannot hold many solutions at one time. It considers each one internally/abstractly and then picks the best course of action. Once a decision is made, the left brain does not to change its mind. It detests flip flopping. It knows that its choice is the right one and everyone needs to get in line. This is one of the reasons the Republican Party does not allow its members to stray from the company line. The Republicans got behind Mitt Romney, now they have to minimize their conflict about his ever changing positions.

The Christian Right and all orthodox monotheistic religions feel at home with left brain thinking. Believing in one God to the exclusion of all others has become very left brained. Since there is one way, individuals don’t need choice. There is the right way and the wrong way. Who would want to choose the wrong way?

The “one at a time” nature of the left brain emphasizes the individual over the group. It was interesting how during this year’s political conventions, the Republicans touted the ‘self-made man’ myth while the Democrats sold the ‘we are all in this together’ myth. It was a classic example of the right-left brain split. The left brain emphasizes the similar and familiar over the different and other. Those who are not part of the inner group are shunned and denigrated.

The left brain is better at math and symbolic numbers than the right brain. It emphasizes the fiscal over the personal. Money becomes an abstract thing in and of itself rather than a symbol for stuff and services. The left brain also loves competition. Put it together with its favorite symbol, money, and you have the left brain’s favorite game: Capitalism.

The left brain is classified as being masculine in thought and practice. It supports the patriarchal dominate system and puts women in their place. The left brain system loves the systems of class structure and gender roles.

The left brain has an odd relationship with science. The scientific method has given rise to the left brain. It loves the abstract thought and worked well with the “one at a time” focus on specific experiment. It can really buy into cause and effect. However, it doesn’t handle the notion of multiple causes well. When confronted with an array of causes, it rejects the theory because it can only focus on one thing at a time. The left brain returns to its preformed, abstract ideology over the multiple evidence of the senses. This is why the left brain has trouble with climate change and evolution even though it had a hand in creating both theories.

Your Right Brain on Left Wing Media
While the political parties might not ever think about their left or right brains, they sure know how please and engage the side of the brain they need to get the vote.

The left wing loves new media – image, sounds, and multiple platforms. You have to use your right brain to entertain new ideas and new technology. And it loves images. Images play on the right brain better than on the left. The rise of the right brain can be attributed to the rise of image over the last century from photographs, to films, to television, to the internet. The rise of the web and smart phones has made the world more interconnected proving the idea we are all the same.

The left wing media knows the parts of language that engage the right brain. Metaphor, irony and humor fill liberal news programs. When that doesn’t clinch it, they go for the empathy. Sadness, joy, desire, hope and possibly even love live in the right brain. You have put yourself in someone else’s place to feel empathy. This requires a mind that can compare two different states and find the commonality. This is very right brained.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is a great example of right brain media. It is full of jokes, parody and sarcasm. This language requires a high level of right brain thinking. As he introduces a story an image pops up that usually juxtaposes two images or an image and words. The more the mind is called on compare disjointed ideas, the more the right brain seizes control. The audience is in on the joke. They know it is a comedy show and not a news show. They become part of the insurgency. They are undermining the dominant political paradigm because, well, it’s stupid.

Your Left Brain on Right Wing Media
Right Wing Media prefers old media. They include television though they were wary of it at first, preferring radio and print. They do not like the lack of corporate control over the abundance of media. They attack the new media and raise doubts about its veracity. They tell you that the new media cannot be trusted. The old media, their media, is the only one that is trustworthy.

They emphasize word and language over image. The left brain loves the text crawl because you can’t disengage the left brain if you are constantly being asked to read. They tell you that the news you get from them is not nuanced and lacks spin. These are the straight facts. They tell you to trust them as the source of right thinking.

A good example of this is Fox News. Every news story is urgent, something you must know and understand. They let you know that if you don’t continue to watch you will miss something that could threaten your life. By watching them you are one of the selected, the elite, and the knowledgeable. They speak out against those who would try to take what you have and your country away. They are the ‘other’ and the enemy. They play on fear and anger that dwell primarily in the left brain. Fox News is engineered to be addictive and to increase fear. It plays well with the extremes of the left brain.

Why we are Divided
In the last thirty years, we have become more divided as a country and as a people. The competition between the two sides our brain have teetered and tottered from one side to the other. In the 2000 election, the two sides stood at a knife’s point. The left brain won, barely. The patriarchal, conservative view of the world dominated leading into fear, war and near financial collapse. While the pendulum swung toward the right brain in 2008, we are once again at the knife’s point.  The two sides of the brain see the world differently. It’s like they are living in two parallel universes.

The challenge of our age is to see if we can maintain a balance between the sides of our brains. We need both ways of being to continue to evolve. If the left brain dominates in time we will descend into an autocratic society, a dictatorship, war and, finally, another dark age. If the right continues to grow to overshadow the left, we will descend into anarchy, illiteracy, fiefdoms and end up in another dark age. The middle ground is finding the balance between the two sides, holding the opposites views to be valid and necessary at the same moment.

Before you pull the lever to vote next Tuesday, consider the two sides of your brain. Is one side determining your vote over the other? Is there a vote that balances both?


  1. This is a GREAT post, and I love this series....

    I've reposted parts of this, with links for folks to read more, on my wordpress blog (

    I'm sure it'll make a stir. As humans, as leaders, as artists, as a species, finding the balance is key now!

  2. (It's scheduled to be posted Nov. 2 -- part of my escalating voting series!


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