Psychology Myth: Only use 10% of our brain?

You hear it all the time: “they say we only use 10% of our brain.”

When William James said, “Most people only use about 10% of their intellectual capacity” I don’t think he realized how people would interpret it.  Self-help guru’s of all kinds changed this statement to mean something completely different than what James meant.  Take a look at the common phrase itself – it implies that we do not know the boundaries of our brains capacity.  If that is true, and we do not know our brains limitations, then how can you quantify a percentage on top of it?  What William James was speaking of, in his quote, is the lackadaisical respect for each individuals own intellectual perspicacity.

To best illustrate the problem with the misconceived quote of today, let’s look at an example.  Let us say you and your buddies go on a road trip.  You don’t know where you’re going, you’re just driving.  Your friend asks, “How far along are we?” and you answer “we’re 10% of the way there” but you have no idea where you’re going.

The idea laying within the quote is that there are “sleeping” parts of our brain that are not activated and, with proper meditation and practice, you could activate them.  However, there have been countless electrical stimulation of the brain that uncover not a single sleeping entity.  Some may argue that electrical signals cannot stimulate these parts – and to argue so is to simultaneously be ignorant of how the brain works (ie.neuronal transduction).

There are several reasons to doubt that 90% of our brains lie silent. At a mere 2–3% of our body weight, our brain consumes over 20% of the oxygen we breathe. It’s implausible that evolution would have permitted the squandering of resources on a scale necessary to build and maintain such a massively underutilized organ. Moreover, losing far less than 90% of the brain to accident or disease almost always has catastrophic consequences.

This myth belittles the already creative genius of our brains.  Just my thoughts on the matter.

What do you think…?



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