Dumb Ideas

"What will happen if she starts using 100% of her brain?"
“What will happen if she starts using 100% of her brain?”

My husband told me I had to let it go. I had to stop muttering at the TV whenever I see a trailer for the movie, Lucy (which is based on the idiotic myth that humans only use 10% of our brains – I’m not even going to link to any of the thousand articles that set this myth straight because it has been years and years since the fallacy was trashed and it’s too dumb to respectfully address). But I’m having trouble letting go, as is perhaps evident.

"Maybe she could learn a second language."
“Maybe she could learn a second language.”

I don’t know why it bothers me so much. Last Friday I happily went out to watch talking apes on horseback, and tonight I’m seriously considering checking out Dwayne Johnson wearing a lion’s head fighting hydras. So why does Lucy strike me as intolerably stupid?

Really, I would love to believe that there’s 90% of awesome I haven’t accessed in my skull. I want to take the Limitless pill and finish all my books in a weekend. I’ve always wanted to astral project. And telekinesis would be nice – I’d use my power for good instead of evil, I swear.

But none of that is going to happen. This is pretty much all I’ll ever be. I’m not working on 10% here – it’s taken all my reserves just to get this far.

I suspect – although the memory is hiding in the dimly lit portions of my brain – that I used to believe in the 10% myth. I probably hoped – and secretly felt it was a sure thing – that one day I’d unlock the rest of my intelligence (of which I’d had glimmers) and become a superhero or at least finish my books a lot faster. And now the reminder that such belief still exists just bugs the hell out of me.

I’m a curmudgeon, that’s all, stomping on the innocence of the ten-percenters, denying them their dreams of potential.

Who wants to be a curmudgeon? Not me. Not one moment longer.

I”m letting it go. Bring on the next trailer. I won’t mutter a single word. Instead I’ll shout, Go, Lucy!  Unlock it all! Take command of those brain cells, harness your chi, and you go, girl! For all of us who once believed! Learn that second language!

(But I won’t be going to the movie.)

(Unless a friend calls up and asks because, really, I could be persuaded if there’s popcorn involved.)


6 Comments on “Dumb Ideas

  1. That’s what I keep telling everyone! The 10% rule is BS. Learned that in my first lecture at uni, but people (outside uni) won’t believe me. Gaah!

    • You can direct them to Scientific American: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-people-only-use-10-percent-of-their-brains/ or any number of articles that will pop up in a “10% of brain myth” search or pretty much any serious book on the human mind.

      The myth was built upon the very true statement that we don’t use our brains to their full potential – as in, we are not learning languages and absorbing history and pondering metaphysics and creating awesome inventions and art, which many of us really could be doing if we were challenged to. Someone somewhere along the way threw in a 10% figure based on absolutely nothing, and that really caught on, along with the notion that the other 90% was inaccessible and might contain awesome abilities like telekinesis (because the pyramids, quantum physics, and everything in between were not awesome enough, right? Seriously, the human brain is AMAZING).

      It would be like saying we only use 10% of our bodies to mean that we don’t run and swim and climb and perform acrobatics and become American ninja warriors, which many of us really could do if we put in the effort. We use all of our brains and bodies in daily life – though we could put both to better use, I’m sure. (I don’t think we all could be Albert Einstein or Bruce Lee, no matter how much we tried, though. Alas.)

      I just don’t get the myth. I just don’t understand how humans would evolve dragging around these massive brains we don’t know how to use – it makes no sense. Are other species only using 10% too, or is it just us, the species that has adapted to and altered every environment, developed the most complicated language and social systems, built cities and empires and space stations. Honestly, it’s such a stupid myth, it annoys me so. But I’m letting go….

      • It’s been a few years since my psych degree, but from what I remember, the myth was presented in a commercial a long time ago.

      • Probably so. They myth is all over the place, and this new movie will just entrench it further. Oh well – I’m taking a new approach to it and seeing it as a sign of optimism.

  2. Okay, maybe 10% is not the right number. However, Please explain how a person can be born with fully one half of their brain not developed and not functioning, and the person show very few signs of poor development? It seems to reinforce the myth to some extent. Don’t you think?

    • Neural plasticity is amazing, for sure. Damaged brains can re-learn lost skills and healthy brains learn and change every day. All of us can learn more if we challenge ourselves more. But that is nothing like the myth that people use only 10% of their brains (which is simply a misunderstanding with no factual basis, repeated so frequently people think it must be true).

      I don’t think that sort of plasticity reinforces the 10% myth any more than, say, how someone who loses their eyesight can enhance their hearing in consequence, or how someone born without arms can learn to play drums and paint with their feet. Bodies (including brains) compensate for missing pieces but that doesn’t mean the pieces would be unused if they were there. The fact that we can learn new things, and can increase the connections in our brains by learning them, doesn’t mean portions of our brain were lying idle until then any more than, say, if we started athletic training and improved our physical abilities – it’s not like we were only using 10% of our legs before we took up jogging.

      A three-legged dog can run alongside other dogs, but if it suddenly got use of a fourth leg it wouldn’t gain the ability to leap over buildings – that’s the kind of thing the 10% brain use myth suggests, that we could tap into all sorts of awesome potential, bordering on the supernatural, if we just learned how to use our full brains. That’s why the myth is so popular – because who wouldn’t like to believe that?

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