Is the right side of our brain really more creative than the left?

Be it through linguistic exploration, visual interpretation, the usage of differing media, or a combination of these approaches. This got us thinking about how the brain processes these differing influences, and spurred by a conversation at BEAR HQ about the notion of left-brain and right-brain dominance and its relationship to creativity, we did some research into whether this concept stands up under scrutiny…

Like the study of physiognomy in the Renaissance and its evolution into phrenology and various sub-branches of comparative anthropology, scientists, writers, sociologists, and even lawmakers have sought to equate and predict our personality traits based upon our physical appearance. Though not as immediately observable as the shape of your nose or the distance between your eyes, the notion of a left-brain or right-brain dominance in people as indicative of personality traits, skills, and differences of interaction within the world could be seen to follow this historic line of thinking.

How did scientists first learn of this supposed propensity for the hemispheres of the brain to process information in differing ways?

Discovered during the 1970s in the treatment of severe epileptics, neurobiologist Roger Sperry, who, in cutting the neural pathways between the left and right sides of the brain effectively split the brain of his patients into two. The goal of this pretty absolute and severe treatment was to quell the excess of electrical activity that triggers the seizures.

line drawing of human brain on yellow background

Through the conducting of various experiments that relied on both lingual and spatial cues, he discovered the brain’s hemispheres operate with a separate consciousness and can process information independently of each other, even when there are no neural connections between the two hemispheres. His ‘split brain’ subjects’ results showed that the ability to process language resides in the left hemisphere, and spatial in the right.

From Sperry’s initial findings, a type of pop-psychology grew… (what some scientists would refer to as ‘woo’) ascribing the differing and opposing traits to the left and right brains – a dichotomy. The left was considered the seat of critical thinking, fine mathematical skills, language, and reason. Whereas, the right was the seat of visual-spatial processing, facial recognition, music, the recognition of emotions, and intuitive reason.

That is why it was assumed that left-handed people (and thereby right-brain dominant) are more inclined to be creative, more empathetic, and have a propensity to learning problems like dyscalculia and dyslexia. Whereas, someone who is right-handed and left-brain dominant would be logical, critical, and have better literacy and numeracy skills. However, it cannot be as simple as this, as traits such as creativity are found in both left- and right-handers.

Much like phrenology before it, the left-brain/right-brain dominance concept has been almost entirely discredited.

Our left and right brains work together complementing the processing of information, best explained by Carl Zimmer in Discover magazine, May 2009.

”No matter how lateralised the brain can get though, the two sides still work together. The pop psychology notion of a left brain and a right brain doesn’t capture their intimate working relationship. The left hemisphere specialises in picking out the sounds that form words and working out the syntax of the words, for example, but it does not have a monopoly on language processing. The right hemisphere is actually more sensitive to the emotional features of language, tuning in to the slow rhythms of speech that carry intonation and stress.”

Our brain’s hemispheres have the ability to independently and concurrently process information, and Zimmer outlines in his article that perhaps this dominance can switch – much like how breathing through our nostrils alternates between left and right.

Every time anyone takes this online test, for example, we get a differing result stating the particular dominance of either our left or right brain. It is not that our brains have fundamentally changed, but it is the way we perceive the information that is changing, and this can be influenced by many external and internal factors – for example: is the room noisy, are we hungry or tired, have we just been involved in an activity that requires mathematical skills?

It takes both the left and right sides of the brain to process the information that we get from the world, solve a problem, draw a picture, and understand language.

A person’s handedness isn’t necessarily going to automatically denote them more creative than someone who has the opposite handedness. However, this concept does make for neat shorthand and has helped to sell countless self-help books, online courses, and brain-training apps. Even here at BEAR our creative team regularly has a ‘right-brain breakfast’ to discuss and explore cultural and creative concepts outside the bounds of client briefs and current live projects.

Looking to discuss your creative requirements? Check out our case studies and drop us a message on info@bearlondon.com to find out more about our services.

Staying relevant: The habit of constant evolution

Three young people wearing burberry

A very suave, sophisticated and successful businesswoman recently told us that the key to her success were her good habits; habitual exercise, healthy eating, and learning. She said: “entrenching these habits is hard work, but once you have them staying on top is relatively easy.” She also pointed out that “being on top can be just as attractive in your personal life, as it is in your business life!”

Ignoring the unfortunate innuendo and her slight smugness, we thought to ourselves that the same rings true for branding. Trends, cultures and consumers evolve constantly.

It is vital that brands do the same to create and sustain customer trust and loyalty. Making a habit of constant evolution is therefore crucial to any brand. It unfortunately does not come without hard work and an element of risk, but these are components of any successful story, and the alternative, a failure to progress in a rapidly changing world, will inevitably lead to a brand’s downfall anyway.

In our minds, three things will help brands to get in the habit of constant evolution.

1. Click refresh – this feed does not update automatically!

Brand refreshes should happen regularly. It might sound simple but make sure to put it in your diary to review each year. This will force proactivity, create forward thinking and help you to stay ahead of the game. Apple is probably still the best example of a brand which wholeheartedly embraces the need for constant change as a principle of success as it continues to enthral with its relentless product innovations. This type of continuous evolution removes the need for drastic reinventions after periods of stagnation, which are often more difficult to execute. The disastrous attempt made by JC Penney’s former CEO, Ron Johnson (also formerly of Apple), to radically reform the dowdy US retailer between 2011-2013 is a gloomy example of what can happen when brands are allowed to gather dust.

Modernised version of JC penny logo against old logo

2. With respect to Eminem, don’t lose yourself!

In a chaotic world where we are incessantly peppered with new information, customers will not want to waste their time trying to work out exactly what lifestyle demands your brand is claiming to meet; it has to be very obvious. Often brands overcomplicate what they are trying to offer in an effort to modernise. They end up losing their identity and alienating core customers. If the essence of your brand is straightforward, it is much easier to remain faithful to it, whilst also delivering new and surprising ideas which strengthen it. So keep it simple!

Prior to 2006, Burberry was a classic example of a brand which had over-complicated things. It moved away from its pure British trench-coat identity, which had seen over a century of success, and tried to deliver on all kinds of fashion apparel and accessories in an effort to keep up with global expansion; dog coats, leashes and kilts were some of the lowlights. They very nearly destroyed the brand’s identity as a result. When Angela Ahrendts (now of Apple, surprise surprise!) took over in 2006, rival luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton had more than 16 times Burberry’s revenue. She quickly restored ‘the Ethos of the Trench’; the idea that their most iconic item, with its esteemed British heritage, had to be at the core of all their brand creativity and innovation. The turnaround was startling. By 2012, they had doubled their sales revenue. For the last five years consecutively, they have been recognised by InterBrand as one of the top 100 Global Brands. This year, Fast Company placed it as the seventh most innovative retail brand in the world. It almost seems illogical that their simple commitment to evolving around one historic item has allowed the brand to stay relevant today, but it has and it is a great lesson for other brands.

Car with burberry pattern and lots of graffiti

3. “Oh yes he is!”…“Oh no he isn’t!”

Looking towards the yearly Christmas bedlam, remember that audience participation is not restricted to pantomime. When brands tell their story, their audience needs to be involved too. An open and ongoing dialogue with your audience will give you a better appreciation of their lifestyle demands, which will direct your brand’s evolution. It will also give you an idea of when they are ready to receive your latest innovations. If they are not, you can get them ready. And, assuming you have not been blessed with entirely satisfied customers, their honest and critical feedback will be a powerful driver of change.

Yahoo appeared to get this wrong a few years back during their ‘30 Days of Change’ campaign. It revealed a new logo every day for 29 days leading up to the release of its actual new logo in September (perhaps a play on Google’s logo adaptations). It was a slightly contrived attempt to involve their audience in a working process, in which they actually had no involvement at all. Audience involvement must be real, or it could do more harm than good.

Coca-Cola has a strong tradition of involving its customers in its evolutionary process. One illustration of this is its commitment to respond directly to all its social media followers. Another example is its use of crowdsourcing to generate content for future brand evolution. Not only do its consumers feel like that they are truly part of the brand’s development, but Coca-Cola’s resulting awareness of what its audience wants helps it to stay relevant.

So, our suggestions to try to ‘stay on top’ are:

  • Take steps, even if they seem artificial at first, to ingrain a culture of progression within your brand. Evolving a little and often is a far easier than revolutionising every now and again
  • Keep one or two straightforward principles at the heart of all your innovations. It is easier to cut through all of society’s brouhaha if the message is clear and simple
  • Genuinely engage with your core audience. It is your awareness of their wants and needs, which allow for successful evolution

Following these suggestions will, unfortunately, neither guarantee that you remain relevant nor that consumers engage with your brand. Much will still depend on the quality of your innovations and the execution of your brand strategy. It will, however, help get you into the habit of constant evolution; a habit which no brand can survive without given the ever-increasing pace of change.

PPL PRS launches TheMusicLicence

As of February, a joint venture by PPL and PRS for Music sees the launch of  TheMusicLicence, a new music licence that brings together both licensing arms of PPL and PRS together under one unified brand: PPL PRS.

PPL PRS’ joint venture is completely changing the music industry and leading the way internationally.

Removing the need for two licences, businesses who use music will now only need the one licence under the joint venture of PPL PRS, making it both an easier process for businesses and fairer for artists and creators.

Bringing together both companies as PPL PRS, based in a new HQ in Leicester, the joint venture has a strong brand identity, created by us here at BEAR, that joins the fun of music with a simple plectrum marque and playful sound waves.

Streamlining the process, TheMusicLicence replaces the need for two separate licences, transforming the way the UK music licensing system operates. Celebrating everything that music can do for a business – including motivating staff, improving the customer’s enjoyment and experience, and creating an upbeat and positive environment – TheMusicLicence and the accompanying strapline Turn it up! pays homage to all that’s great about music.

Supporting artists and at a fair price for businesses, and similar to the TV licence and UK driving licence, TheMusicLicence from PPL PRS is now the only licence you need. Find out more about the project in our case study.

To find out more about BEAR’s services, including brand identity, strategy, UX, tone of voice and much more, please feel free to get in touch at info@bearlondon.com.