Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Which side are you on?

While reading Jim Murphy’s post last week about David Macaulay and the less-than-enthusiastic response to the latter’s books from a panel of judges, a theory popped into my head that I’ll try out on I.N.K. readers. Bearing in mind Macaulay books such as Cathedral, Castle, and Pyramid, choose which list below matches up most closely with his books:

  • imagination
  • multi-tasking
  • big picture
  • intuitive
  • believes
  • impulsive
  • timeless
  • visual

  • facts
  • step-by-step
  • details
  • logical
  • knows
  • plans
  • on time
  • verbal

List #2 seems more aligned with David Macaulay’s body of work to me, thought of course his work is very visual. In case you haven’t recognized them yet, these are right-brain (#1) and left-brain (#2) characteristics. Do right-brain people prefer fiction? Do left-brain people prefer nonfiction?

The specifics of right brain vs. left brain preferences are not as cut and dry as popular accounts might lead one to believe... people use both sides of their brains (hopefully) and there is quite a bit of overlapping functionality. While I don’t want to overstate the significance of how our brains work, most of us know which side we naturally favor, don’t we?

I’m just wondering if there is a unconscious preference for or against fiction vs. nonfiction that is aligned with our right brain/left brain comfort zones. Perhaps to right-brained readers, nonfiction’s emphasis on facts reminds them uncomfortably of being in school and taking tests, whereas to left-brained readers the fantasies of fiction may seem like a waste of valuable time. (As with brain function, there can be overlap between fiction and nonfiction such as historical fiction, for example.)

Are there more right-brainers in certain fields that impact children’s books? One example: people who enjoy math are usually left-brained and when I ask audiences of elementary teachers to raise their hands if they love math, not many hands go up! In that vein, here is an interesting article about right-brained, left-brained, and “middle-brained” teachers and students.

In any case, if this theory has any validity what should we do about it? Hmmm... should I make a list or start doodling?


Melissa Stewart said...

Very interesting post, Loreen. I also wonder if left-brained people tend to be writers of nonfiction.

Linda Zajac said...

Thanks for clearing up my confusion. After taking the little test I found out what I already knew. I'm a mid-brainer with exactly 11 points. Logic is constantly battling creativity.

Loreen Leedy said...

There's no doubt in either half of my brain that these dual processing paths have affected my own career path... since I make informational picture books, it would appear that I also am a middle type.

Jim Murphy said...

I think you're on to something here, Loreen. I read this past summer that an analysis of soccer referees suggested that right-handed referees call more penalties when moving to their right (or some such). If that's true, there's no reason why right-brain/left-brain preference wouldn't affect reading choice also. This might be someone's university grand proposal.

Loreen Leedy said...

That's interesting about the soccer refs, I'll have to ask my nephew about that. How right/left brain prefs affect reading would indeed be a good topic for a research project, assuming it hasn't been looked into before (if so, I haven't heard about it.)

Julie Larios said...

Gosh - I've been a big fan of Macaulay's for years, and I immediately chose List #1 as reflecting his talents - visual, imaginative, big picture (sure the big picture gets taken apart, and the little pieces examined, but he still has a big-picture brain! he thinks of how it all fits together, and what it MEANS.) His work is definitely "timeless" - if by that you mean it's larger than a particular audience in a particular time period. And I think it's even "timeless" if it means that the content reaches beyond its own time frame. What we see, if we look at the way a cathedral was built, is what religion meant (and still means) to people - why builders and believers lift up into the sky the structures (as metaphors) which honor it. Ditto for Mosque, which Macaulay brought out AFTER 9/11 - he didn't just want to give us information (List #2) but to connect us to the culture at the heart of the building. That's a Big Picture task.

I think List #1 describes Macaulay's work best. His books are poetry - and poetry is the opposite of information.

Loreen Leedy said...

I see what you're saying Julie, and there definitely is some overlap depending on how words are defined. When I hear imagination, the word "fantasy" is what comes to mind in this context as opposed to "creativity," though the latter is also one definition. One could debate the meaning of other words... to me, a right-brain type of picture book would be more like Tuesday by David Wiesner.