3. You are either left-brained or right-brained
Your brain has two halves, and they are indeed different. Just how different, those brain scientist types are still trying to ascertain. Here’s what they do know: the idea that the left side is where reason and math hang out, playing chess with grammar, while the right is all poetry jams, watercolors and unicorns, is—to employ the technical term—crap. Although there’s a reason why we believe it.
In the early days of neuroscience it was noted that people who lost brain function on a particular side also tended to lose specific abilities. But very few of those abilities are solely contained on one side. The two hemispheres are interdependent and constantly interact. If someone says you can train up one side or the other to make yourself more logical or more creative, chances are they’re trying to sell you something. Something you probably shouldn’t buy.
4. Alcohol kills brain cells
Where starving zombies go to die.
Nope. Woohoo! Line ’ em up! Not so fast. Alcohol may not do away with the lil fellas what does yer cogitatin’, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for your brain. It won’t cause permanent damage to the structure of that remarkable organ, but it will affect its function. Now, to be clear, we’re not saying drinking doesn’t make you dumb—of course it does; that’s the whole point of it—only that it won’t make you dumber, for good.
The main short-term effect of alcohol on the brain is to juice up your neurotransmitters—serotonin, dopamine—which makes you feel better, more quickly. (You may have observed this phenomenon during your own doubtless meticulous double-blind tests.) The long-term effect is that your brain won’t let the serotonin and dopamine do their job without a drink first. And that, kids, is what we call addiction. Those undestroyed brain cells will make you pay for it.
5. Sexual differences are hard-wired into the brain
“You didn’t even notice I changed my hair, did you?”
Yeah, right. Which is why women can’t vote or be doctors… hold on. Time was when that was the explanation given for such opinions, and similar ones on race, too. So what does the actual science say? There’s no evidence for it, other than in the most minor ways. The different-brain stuff is based on cognitive tests, and these are invariably skewed by the testing itself. Results match expectations. In countries where boys are thought to be better at math, for instance, that’s what the tests show.
So unless brain structure varies from place to place as well as between sexes, that’s clearly no indicator. Meanwhile, scans of brain activity during various tasks do little to demonstrate hard-wired difference. So if you ridicule your girlfriend because she can’t read maps, that may be not because she lacks the brain structure for it, but because it’s hard-wired into you to act like an asshole. Not that you should tell her that or anything…