It’s common knowledge that we only use 10% of our brain; that each of us has vast mental resources that we are yet to harness. It’s one of those accepted truths that is used to promote everything from brain training to speed reading, from ghosts to ESP; Dale Carnegie used the figure in his best-selling book How to Win Friends and Influence People, the celebrated Israeli spoon bender Uri Geller used it to explain his amazing telekinetic powers.
And we know it must be true, because Albert Einstein said so.
Except that he didn’t. Because it isn’t.
I hate to break bad news, but in the course of an average day you use pretty much all the brains you’ve got, just not all at once. Your brain activates different regions as needed, in much the same way as your body fires up different muscles to suit the job at hand.
Thanks to functional MRI technology, we can watch your brain as it goes about different tasks; remembering, imagining, processing ideas or forming words, making decisions or solving a puzzle, and as it does, it lights up like a Christmas tree, flashing on and off, here and there.
The brain is a busy, busy place and you need all of it working as well as it can.
(That’s why you never hear a neurosurgeon say ‘Nurse, this man has been shot in the head. Thank God there’s only a 10% chance that the bullet hit anything important.’)
Of course, this is not to say you can’t get more out of your brain; there are all sorts of exercises for improving your memory, concentration and cognition, all kinds of tools for sharpening your reasoning ability and unlocking your creativity. But there’s no vast frontier of undiscovered brain space waiting to be explored.
So anyone who says you’re not using all of yours… might not be using all of theirs.