Why do we think of our own brains, our own beings, as machines? As McGilchrist compellingly suggests in his groundbreaking work on the hemispheres, “the whole problem is that we are obsessed, because of what I argue is our affiliation to left-hemisphere modes of thought, with ‘what’ the brain does rather than the ‘how’ – ‘the manner in which’, something no one ever asked a machine.”
The relationship between the two hemispheres of the brain is increasingly seen as central to our well-being and mental health, as a number of leading neuroscientists and psychotherapists have observed.
Central to McGilchrist’s exploration of the difference between the hemispheres is the notion of attention. As he suggests, “attention is not just another ‘function’ alongside other cognitive functions”. Rather, the kind of attention we bring to bear on the world actually alters the nature of the world we attend to: “Attention changes what kind of a thing comes into being for us: in that way it changes the world”
This article was originally published at Aeon. Dan Nixon is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Sunday Times, The Economist and The Guardian, among others. He also leads Perspectiva’s initiative into the workings of the attention economy and is a senior researcher at The Mindfulness Initiative. He lives in London. ‘We are […]