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Why are some people better at some things compared to others?

  1. Jan 24, 2010 #1
    I have a question about why some people excel in some subjects and struggle in others. For example, I do great in physics and calculus. I could look at calculus all day crunching problems and I don't get put down. However when I try to write papers or try to get into a book, its much much harder. There are people like me and exactly opposite of me. I mean I guess in the end you could say it comes down to genetics but what is happening in the brain that makes people better at some things compared to others? What brain chemistry make me much more able to deal with math and physics problems and makes me less able to deal with with writing papers or getting into books?

  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 24, 2010 #2
    I've always been doubtful about the whole "left brain ; right brain" idea. I am talking about the assumption that mathematics and logic are in one part of the brain and that art and language are in the other.

    This is because I think that the higher mathematics can be as abstract and creative as any of the humanities classes claim to be ; and "creative" humanities classes can also be full of mindless memorization with no allowance for ingenuity.

    In higher forms of math (from what Ive seen) there are increasingly more diverse ways of solving a problem. What becomes more important than solving a problem is how this process can be explained to someone else. So the process glides closer towards exposition.

    Math and the Sciences and perhaps any field when taken to a high enough level of pursuit is elegant artistry.

    When I think of people like Einstein,Feynman, or Newton I don't envision sterile "Spock" charactors who are pure logic. I think of people who are wild and crazy and creative.

    At the same time, there is certainly letter crunching in any good writing class and plenty of wrote memory is needed as well.

    Maybe there is a part of the brain that is good at memorization and 'crunching of numbers and letters' and another side that is more abstract and creative, but where I disagree with common perception is when people say that math "this is right brain" and also say english "this is left brain" or whichever is claimed to be which.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2010
  4. Jan 24, 2010 #3
    I'm not sure where you got this idea from at all. The only thing I can think of that is taught for 'left vs right' side of the brain is controlling parts of your body. Here's a good diagram of the brains and which parts are responsible for various functions:
    http://www.clinicalexams.co.uk/images/functions_of_the_brain.jpg [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  5. Jan 24, 2010 #4
    Being good at various subjects given a normal brain has to do with how you brought up. If you practiced writing you will get just as good at it as you are at math.

    It all depends on how your parents brought you up as a child and what they placed most focus on during your lifetime.
  6. Jan 24, 2010 #5
    From popular misconception.
    I typed "left brain right brain" on google just now to come up with a link or some idea of where I first heard of this idea. There were too many links from too many places where people beleive that nonsense.
    Put those words in a search engine if you are curious about where I got the idea, I did not make it up.

    I agree with you.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  7. Jan 25, 2010 #6
    Both genetic as well as environmental influences are operable here. I do not disagree with the "right-left" brain theory because its main significance lies in the lesions that occur in right vs left cortices. It's better to not make claims such as "you are good in math because the math part of your brain is very good". The only tangible explanation would be that you're well tuned towards mathematics because of environmental and possibly genetic influences. Intelligence definitely is a heritable trait. And there are different grades of intelligence.

    You should check out further information about the right vs left hand dominance and the associated brain patterns. I'm sure you'd find some very interesting statistics especially with people who are left-hand dominant! And I'd like to add that some left-hand dominant people are also left-brain dominant!
  8. Jan 28, 2010 #7
    I was considered a failure at math, physics, chemistry etc... for my 20 years of adolescence.

    I fell privy to beliefs such as "I was born this way" or "because I'm a musician I'm supposed to be bad at math, just like Jimi Hendrix" - both equally bs claims & if I continued to allow these beliefs to germinate I would have never discovered how amazingly interesting these things were...

    I just can't subscribe to such unfounded pseudo-psychological assertions & the prescence of them in contemporary culture only serve as a means to distract & plant false idea's in peoples heads about how the world is supposed to be...

    The only thing required in order to excel at something is motivation, love/passion [though not essential], understanding & the patience to practice it consistently. Understanding seems to be the one that holds the most as people can excel at things they hate, usually for other reasons...

    While some people are instantly good at things it doesn't mean those who are not instantly good at X will never be so...

    As regards the left-brain/right brain debate, tests such as this -

    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/right-brain-v-left-brain/story-e6frf7jo-1111114603615 [Broken]

    are ridiculous.


    This laterization link indicates that there really is no actual consensus anyway...

    I think these sweeping statements are always going to be proven wrong & it's unfortunate that we continue to look for these patterns as it really seems their only function is to delude people into believing they can't do this or that thing...
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  9. Jan 29, 2010 #8
    there may be some differences in brain wiring according to gender, or maybe hormones. actually, gender and sexual identity are perhaps influenced by hormone levels in-utero.

    also, some studies have been done comparing three-dimensional visualization skills of men vs. women. and, indeed, men are better at 3-D visualization. with training, say in an engineering curriculum, women will indeed get much better at it. however, so do the men, so that on average men are still better at 3-D visualization with training.


  10. Jan 31, 2010 #9
    This is a classic example of why such things should better be left to a scientist's interpretation. That wikipedia article doesn't make the idea of lateralization sound ridiculous because there is no way you can refute lateralization in its entirety because of the peculiar clinical conditions that the lesions in specific hemispheres of the brain are reported to cause. It's the "exaggeration" of it in the realms of pseudoscience that is making it sound totally pathetic and ridiculous.
  11. Jan 31, 2010 #10
    And you are that scientist qualified to throw around statements regarding left-right brain patterns? Humour me with your most recent work in the field.

    @proton I agree that there is a slight genetic variable but I do not think that it's to the extent that one normal person vs another normal person if both train to their maximal potentials in say math that one would be extremely better at math as in the OP.

    What I was attempting to say is that it's mostly with how you are raised, intelligence etc. are in my opinion (for the normal person) based on enviromental factors. To say that intelligence is inheritable through genetics is a crock in my opinion. It would have to do MORE with your parents being more intelligent so you are in an 'intelligent enviroment'. Just the same way saying racism is inherited through genetics.

    People are predisposed to the ways of their parents by being RAISED by them. If you took could make an imaginary worlds smartest couple and have them pump out babies. Then have these babies would be adopted immediated by 'lower intelligence families' I would be willing to bet that a majority of these children would NOT be as intelligent as their parents. They would be just as likely to be of being considered extremely intelligent as any other child in their position.
  12. Jan 31, 2010 #11
    i'm really not arguing for a difference in intelligence, just sexual dimorphism. and it makes perfect sense from an evolutionary perspective if you consider it has been primarily the men in a tribe which hunt, which requires quite a bit of trajectory calculation.

    environment is certainly important, but that argument only goes so far. it's nature+nurture. if you want to go full nurture, then you're going outside the bounds of science and making a political argument.
  13. Feb 1, 2010 #12


    p0wned... :rofl:

    Tell me what is so pseudoscientific about refusing to accept extremely shady statements that have absolutely no consensus as of yet?

    How are we to come to any real understanding when we are willing to accept the results of a few experiments in such drastic & varied fields that still have no consensus?

    I am of the opinion that the only sustainable & credible "factoids" that come out of these mass psychology tests that base their reults on mean averages are the benificial ones in some form or another.

    Results that inadvertently put down one type of person or another, one race/gender or another etc... are just waiting to be proven wrong by more credible results.

    When doing these psychological/sociological tests are you aware of the class discrepancies that exist? How about cultural influences? Who is to say a persons background hasn't shaped their readiness to accept spatial-relations 3-D diagrams? What about lack of previous exposure to X? There are just too many iffy experiments whose results are leaked to the public & too few credible psychological experimental results being released via the media.

    I also have another personal story, in those tests we take as children in school I got 27% in the test that graded recognition of mathematical objects. Were the school to go on fallicious pseudo-scientific claims that I'm born genetically deficient in the "spatial-orientation gene" I could have had my future ruined.

    My strong belief - that is sincere - is that all of these tests that aim to spot deficiencies in one broad class of human being are just going to be proven wrong & only serve to mentally restrict people from reaching their true capabilities.

    Need we mention Eugenics or the real origins of aptitude tests?

    I read James Watsons book DNA & it really shed light on the origins of all that crazy stuff. I advise anybody to read that amazing book, the aptitude tests thing is like the least interesting thing in that amazing book lol, that's how good it is.

    There will always be people who will realise the falseness of X wrong belief but what about those who grow up and die wthout ever getting to do something they might have really appreciated because of some social stigma based on pseudo-psychology?

    What do you say to a young girl who is told she will never be as good as a man at mathematics because she heard her uncles saying that to her as a child? Do her uncles ever talk about all the famous female mathematicians throughout history? This is such a flaw of the past...

    Science is supposed to be as rock solid as can be, so hold off on the claims that men are better at Engineering, Math, or X, until the playing field is as fair as can be, then we have a chance to find out who is the worst among us & who is weakest at what, with no way to change it (as the whole idea running thru this thread claims, contrary to nature Vs nurture).

    What a noble goal to strive to...
  14. Feb 6, 2010 #13
    Excuse me but I thought I didn't just state any "personal" work so to speak! What are you pointing your guns at?
  15. Feb 6, 2010 #14

    I think it'd help you on a personal level if you don't take my response out of the context. I mentioned in correlation to the wikipedia article which states that people take such generalized notions in science and absolutely mincemeat it to make it mean something absolutely different.

    No consensus? I don't understand whether you get your education from youtube or kidshealth.org but I wouldn't be daring to say something like that in face of absolutely distinct clinical syndromes that right and left brain lesions cause! :rolleyes:
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