Personality and Living the Truths of Hemispheric Lateralization

  • Jeff Verge

    November 16, 2022 at 7:22 pm

    That’s a fascinating question that could lead to insight into how best to propagate Dr. McGilchrist’s work. My development was highly atypical, so I can’t assume my experience is transferable or relatable, but it would be great if people with a better understanding of personality factors weigh in.

    Regarding the science direct link, this jumped off the page for me:

    “At the moment, the world is awash in “fake news”, citizens are routinely manipulated by politicians who do not mean what they say, and social media platforms incentivize virtue signaling and punish straightforwardness. Although being “yourself” is often extolled in modern society, it comes with social risks. It is these moments of social risk that provide perhaps the most valid test of whether a person is actually being real: a person who is only real when it pays off is not really real at all.”

    If I wanted to explore the question of realness, I would have to spell out some unpleasant developmental details which made mine a long and twisted path, and which I don’t assume anyone wants to hear about. Am I being real? I don’t even know! But it’s a fascinating question.

    Without getting too far into the personal weeds, here is one of my atypical circumstances: I have one parent who is very right brain and one who is extremely left brain. One is right-handed and the other left-handed, and I am ambidextrous. For this and other developmental reasons, such as a capacity for extreme introspection, I suspect a crystalline awareness of attention modes might not be as apparent for some people as it is for me.

    What I can say is that my experience of encountering Dr. McGilchrist’s work was one of instant recognition and intuitive understanding. I think I was already tuned to receive the message. As with most or all of us here, I was already a huge admirer of thinkers like Blake, Nietzsche, Lao-Tzu and so many others, and I’d already cultivated an abiding love of nature and music. Happy is the one who’s learned the causes of things, an old Roman poet once said.

    Also, I know what Dr. McGilchrist says about modernity being left hemisphere dominant is true. I grew up in the 1980’s, thinking the world was a sinister behemoth bent on flattening us out and dumbing us down. Druing 30 odd years of reading and thinking about social criticism I had a very explicit sense I was arming myself against an invisible, undeclared enemy. I see now with utter clarity how my RH parent contorted themselves into a persistent LH attention mode, because that’s what society and everyone around them rewarded them for. They (both parents) were of the so-called Silent Generation, for which the invisible underlay was Behaviourism and Bernaysian conditioning, wrought in the shadow of nuclear terrorism and the trauma of two world wars.

    What do you think Charles? I would imagine that since you brought up such an interesting question you’ve given it some thought?

    • Charles Rykken

      November 30, 2022 at 7:23 pm

      I began my journey into the study of personality in the 90s. I spent $3000 for a PC and got my dialup account on Compuserve. One of the first things I looked up on Altavista, a search engine which was a precursor to Google, was empathy. I had been making a serious effort to understand political conservatives(PolCs) and had chosen empathy as a likely psychological construct that would help me understand PolCs. It was doing that search that I discovered the idea that “putting yourself in the shoes of the other person”(PYISOP) does not always work because there are some dimensions where the difference is so fundamental that the PYISOP approach was doomed to failure. Instead, with some people, you have to observe them and take notes on behavior and speech and do your best to infer subjective states of mind. Jean Decety does research in social neuroscience. He was an early focus for me(He is mentioned in TMWT on page 300). I also got heavily into political psychology. John Jost is one of the researchers in that field who has been a major influence on my thinking. I see myself as a philosophical journalist. Journalists are a strange breed who are gadflies who settle briefly into a specific area of interest(the story du jour) and when the story is ready for publication they fly away to another story. Interestingly, my understanding of the word gadfly was just as described in the prior sentence but when I looked up the definition/etymology of gadfly and found this but then I thought I should do a search on gadfly + journalist and found One of my favorite journalist is Lincoln Steffens who was characterized as a muckraker but I see him as an example of a philosophical journalist along with Hannah Arendt. I see the fifth factor, openness to experience, as a major indicator of someone who is more(or less) likely to embrace Dr. McGilchrist’s ideas on hemispheric lateralization of brain function. See for some detail. It so happens I am also someone who has the double short version of the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism. Michael Pluess is a researcher in the area of high sensitivity. He wrote an article recently where he looks at personality and Sensory Processing Sensitivity(SPS) and openness to experience plays a major role but not all of the six facets of openness are equally important. So… I think my blabbermouth inner journalist needs to be quiet for now. I hope what I have said is helpful in understanding where I am coming from. BTW, I am 74 yo and when I graduated high school in 1966 I was on a crusade against mechanistic materialism due to reading Goethe’s views on philosophy of science. He advocated a relational view as opposed the objects and properties views of the scientists of his day (Laplace, Fourier, the Bernoulli brothers, and others) who advocated for mechanistic materialism which Goethe saw as intrinsically nihilistic. When I read The Master and His Emissary in 2015, it was like I had died and gone to heaven. Finally, I had found someone who understood my pov and had a mountain of scientific evidence to back up the validity of that pov.

      • Jeff Verge

        January 4, 2023 at 9:14 pm

        Same here. I only discovered Dr. McGilchrist in the past year, but it went click with literally everything I ever learned about everything, including some woo stuff that’s close to my heart and which I’ve never spoken about. The fact that Iain has scientific proof for the value of intuition and imagination gives me hope that people otherwise inclined to bright focus and grasping will open their minds, by appealing to their reason.

        I gave your question some more thought, and there’s something else I can say about why Iain’s theory was immediately accessible to me. I can say I know how it feels to live ~entirely in my left brain versus ~entirely in my right brain. From talking to people who say the theory is interesting but they’re not convinced they have two distinct processes running, I surmise that the swing from one to the other hemisphere is less apparent because they’re more anchored in the middle (if that’s a sufficient way to phrase it).

        Going back to your original question, do you have any thoughts about how to get through to people using personality as a guide? Could it be a one size fits all approach, or would it be possible to create a few broad strategy outlines for different personality types?

        • Charles Rykken

          February 1, 2023 at 9:26 pm

          That’s an ongoing work in progress for me. Lately I have been looking at GRE tilt where percentile wise there is a big difference in quant vs verbal scores. I put together a folder on Dropbox that has some interesting contents. For me, the graphic display of the differences in the R code file make downloading R Studio Desktop https://support– can make it easy to see. You need know nothing about R programming to do this. The dropbox file is at To your specific question and why this GRE stuff is relevant is from my experience professionally, The STEM majors focus their studies on “Inanimate objects”. The arts and humanities people study real live humans(history being a slight exception). Intuition needs a base of knowledge function well. Inanimate objects do not interact with the experimenter(entanglement being an interesting exception) and from my professional experience as a scientific programmer from 1971 to 1989, STEM people are usually not very well read in literature. Aldous Huxley claimed the novel as the highest art form as the novelist is creating an entire world not just a painting or a poem. As far as my own GRE scores, I am at the 73 percentile for quant scores within math and physics which majors have the highest quant scores among all the STEM majors. My verbal score puts me at the 91st percentile among philosophy majors who have the highest verbal scores among the arts and humanities. If you line up all of the STEM and all of the arts and humanities majors ordered by average verbal scores, you will find the highest verbal scores on the STEM majors(interestingly math and physics) being almost the same as the major with the lowest verbal score among the arts and humanities. That would be anthropology. So thinking of GRE tilt, I am nearly a statistical outlier for being very verbal among all people who take the GRE. Philosophy has the highest average verbal score among all GRE test takers. A few philosophy departments are proud to crow about that. I believe that you can identify through conversation just how high a person is to openness to experience but Dan Kahan from Yale University points to science curiosity as a marker for willingness to change beliefs.

          • Don Salmon

            February 23, 2023 at 4:17 pm

            Hi Charles, as someone who has administered over 1000 IQ tests and at least as many personality tests, I would caution you to take all them with many grains of salt.

            I started out in psychology with grave reservations about psych testing. What I discovered quite surprised me – if you take ALL the results as mere indications, minuscule pointers to things you might miss in the course of an interview – they can be immensely helpful, right down to pinpointing precise areas of the brain that have been affected by stroke, traumatic brain injury, tumors, etc. If used well, they can be far more precise in providing insights into mental illness and diagnoses than the most extensive questioning by psychiatrists or counselors who don’t conduct tests (which is usually why we psychologists are consulted by them to begin with – certainly not for our superior therapeutic skills!!!)

            Just thought that might be of interest.

          • Whit Blauvelt

            April 25, 2023 at 3:52 pm

            Hi Charles,

            So on the one hand those with the higher verbal scores are in the humanities — as anyone who reads the science journals might suspect — and by corollary the STEM “thinginess” correlates with being less verbally astute. As McGilchrist notes, the LH is more syntactically skilled, handling fluency with words, whereas the RH is more responsible for poetic depth, deeper semantics and the metaphors anchoring words’ meanings.

            It would seem then that the LH has more to say, and says it better, when speaking as emissary for the RH master, than the LH has when speaking for itself. From the LH POV inspiration (that is, ideas crossing freshly from the RH) is superior, as measured by quality what’s produced in language, to what the LH can achieve by using language in a relatively isolated way for calculating what to say, as it were by logic alone.

            Thus a culture of rational self-control should be inferior to a culture of inspiration. This should be even the rational conclusion. And children should best be educated to seek muses, more so than “self-discipline” according to rules and metrics.

            Does this seem to be implicit in McGilchrist’s approach? Does it fit with your personal experience?



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