As a child I was told by a few people, several times, that we only use a fraction of our brain. They told me we generally use only 5-6%, and that if we managed to use at least 30-40% our minds would be so powerful that we could lift objects with our brain. I was also told that Einstein used about 20% of his brain, and by studying and stressing our minds to think more we could achieve a greater usage, and therefore, greater capacity to do things with it such as lifting objects and maybe telekinesis.
According to Wikipedia, Francis Galton was the first scientist to propose a theory of general intelligence; that intelligence is a true, biologically-based mental faculty that can be studied by measuring a person’s reaction times to cognitive tasks.
Alfred Binet, in contrast, believed intelligence was a median average of dissimilar abilities, not a unitary entity with specific, identifiable properties.
Over the course of my life I have heard different things about intelligence. I’ve heard a couple of times that we are all equally intelligent beings. Then again, we all have heard typical phrases such as “He is more intelligent than you”, or “she must be really intelligent”. These usually refer to the fact that an individual may have a higher or lower level of IQ, which after all is just a figure of determining capacity based on results.
What really got me going about looking for information on brain use was the memory of people telling me that we use different percentages of our brain. Then in school I was taught that the several sections of our brain process different functions. How then can we use only a fraction of it if studies have been performed that claim that we do use different parts at the same time?
PET scans (positron emission tomography) and fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) clearly show that the vast majority of the brain does not lie fallow. The nature of claims such as the one which describes that psychic powers may be obtained if we master the percentage of unused brain have been proven wrong, but it is the mass media, literature, and shows performed by different personalities which has ensured the endurance of the claims. More information about that may be obtained at this page at snopes.com, which details an investigation performed by Benjamin Radford.
I have a theory
It is not that we do not fully use our brain. I believe, instead, that it is the capacity of interpreting messages that varies. We may be able to interpret more signals as we train our brain to do so, therefore increasing our ability to integrate more thoughts together, reason them, and process more results, in a faster and more accurate manner.
Clearly we use different sections of our brain to process different signals. Your innate reaction to things such as getting burned is processed in one area. Memories are stored in another area. Likewise, vision is also computed by another section of your brain. However, some people manage to understand things faster than others, just as some people are better with creative issues than others. We have Math geeks, Computer wizards, Programming geniuses, Scientists, Artists, etc. All of them have a certain facility for some areas.
I believe the clue to this lies in the speed, the accuracy, and the depth of the processing of signals from each area of the brain.
The frontal lobe is in charge of recognizing future consequences resulting from current actions, choosing between good and bad actions, overriding and suppressing unacceptable social responses, and determining similarities and differences between things or events.
Now, for example, when you read a book and don’t understand a word, many times you skip it. Then you might hear it a few times in movies. There might come a time when you ask someone what it means, or you hear or read the definition for it somewhere. Then you start noticing it much more commonly, in places where it might have always been but you were unaware of its presence.
Likewise, my theory is that the brain’s sections can process so many things that you are not able to understand, or to grasp entirely, but as you become aware of how to understand that information, then you begin to actually use it more thoroughly and exploit that new ability.
An example of this would be painting. You may have seen many pieces of art, and your brain processes how the shadows and mixtures of colours look like. Then you see a painter actually perform the job. You might then try painting yourself and you are not successful at it the first few times. Your friend, Jack, has not been to many art galleries, nor has he seen a painter do his job, but the first time he grabs a brush he seems naturally talented.
I would explain this by his ability to process those signals in a better way. He may not know precisely how an artist mixes his colours, but he knows how the colours of a face should look like, and he tests mixing the colours until he achieves the one he is looking for. You may be trying too hard to find a scientific approach to it, a perfect balance, but he may be doing it by actually understanding these brainwaves, or what others would call “by heart”.
I do not fully understand how capable we will ever be in certain areas. It may be that some people are just “blocked” in certain area, psychologically, and therefore can’t achieve the understanding of those signals. However, I believe it more to be a matter of really wanting to do so. Someone may want to play guitar, but when he grabs it he thinks he is rubbish, then he claims that he has no ability to play and blocks his creative path. This, however, is a matter of psychologically blocking his ability to understand the patterns that are naturally forming in his brain.
I could say the same for myself. It could chose not to publish this post because I may not fully understand the patterns that form in my brain, I may choose to stay behind and keep my thoughts to myself, but the act of letting it out improves me a bit every day. I believe if anyone tries hard enough at something, the patterns will emerge, and sooner or later he/she will be able to understand those patterns and to exercise the knowledge to deliver a product, action or thought.
It’s all about using it. Don’t you think?