Fact or Fiction: Intelligence is a key trait of humans. The ability to think and perceive is what separates us from other organisms. As such, it is no surprise that the human brain is one of the most complex things in the world.
Even with the advent of modern technology, scientists have not been able to fully decode how the brain works. Due to a poor understanding of the functioning of the brain and many unexplained events, several unfounded theories are circulating in the world.
A widespread notion is that people can only use 10 percent of their brain throughout their lives. And only the smartest of the bunch, like Albert Einstein, can reach 10 percent of their brain potential. For ordinary people, the figure is even lower. This belief has been widely perpetuated by motivational movies and books. But is there any truth to it? Today we found out.
Read on to find out if the belief that humans can only use 10 percent of the brain is fact or fiction.
Origin of the ’10 percent brain’ theory
The belief that humans can only use 10 percent of the brain originated in the early 20th century. Harvard psychologist William James published an article in 1907 in Science magazine stating that people only use a small part of their physical and mental resources. However, the first person to put a number on this “small part” of the brain’s potential was an American writer and broadcaster named Lowell Thomas.
Dale Carnegie’s popular 1936 self-help book How to Win Friends and Influence People included a foreword by Thomas and popularized the theory that people only use 10 percent of their mental capacity. The book has sold more than 15 million copies worldwide, has been in print for almost a century, and is primarily responsible for perpetuating this belief.
The 2014 film Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman, also addressed the topic and showed Johansson’s character gaining superhuman abilities of psychokinesis and telepathy after taking a synthetic drug. The film Limitless, based on the 2002 novel The Dark Fields, also had a similar premise.
Can humans use more than 10 percent of their brain?
There is little consensus about how the brain works in the scientific community. However, most medical professionals and scientists agree on one thing: 10 percent of the brain potential theory is complete fiction.
At any given moment, even during rest, almost the entire brain is active. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of subjects has shown that all parts of the brain have specific functions, and although they may not all work at the same time, they are all used during different activities. Several scientific studies and even the popular Discovery Channel show MythBusters have debunked the 10 percent brain usage theory.
Arguments against the ’10 percent brain’ theory
- The human body has been evolving for thousands of years and there are hardly any redundant body parts left. Additionally, the brain is the organ in the body that consumes the most energy. If we only used 10 percent of our brains, our skulls would have shrunk over the years.
- Brain scans such as MRI and positron emission tomography have shown that, except in the case of brain damage, almost all areas of the brain are active at the same time, some more than others.
- Brain cells have a tendency to degenerate if they are not used. If only 10 percent of the brain were used, the remaining 90 percent would degenerate. But that is not the case.
- If 10 percent of the brain is used, other areas should not be affected in cases of brain injuries. But it turns out that almost all parts of the brain are essential for proper functioning and cannot be damaged without serious repercussions.
The human brain does not use the entire brain at the same time and each part has a specific function. But it is completely false that only 10 percent of the brain can be used. We wouldn’t carry a 1.4kg organ on our heads if we could only use 10 percent of it. Modern science has revealed that all undamaged areas of the brain are active to some extent. And people who spread pseudoscientific beliefs about how to harness unused brain potential and unlock hidden powers are simple frauds.
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