By now, you may have seen commercials or trailers for a new summer blockbuster movie Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman. The premise of the movie is that the title character, played by Johansson, is exposed to a substance that gives her access to ALL of her brain power. The tagline of the film reads, “The average person uses 10% of their brain capacity. Imagine what she could do with 100%.” Morgan Freeman repeats this statement in the movie (and in the trailer.) You can watch the preview here:
Of course, this 10% myth may make for a fun movie premise, but it is utterly and completely false. The truth is that we use virtually all of our brain every day.
Let’s say, for example, that as you are reading this article, you are eating a sandwich. As you are reading, the frontal lobes in your cerebral cortex are engaged in thinking and reasoning. You are enjoying your delicious sandwich thanks to your parietal lobes, which are responsible for taste, texture and smell of food. The occipital lobes help to process how you see the words on this page, and the temporal lobes help you process what you hear—like the crunch of your sandwich and the rustle of the page.
Meanwhile, you just blinked because of your motor area, and it is because of your cerebellum that you are able to hold the sandwich in your hand, as well as anything else you’re doing right now that calls for balance and coordination—like sitting.
Without having to think about it, you are breathing, digesting your sandwich and circulating blood thanks to your brainstem. Your metabolism and hormonal functions like the ones that control the water and sugar levels in your body are currently being controlled by your pituitary gland. And if you are sitting outside on a park bench on a cold wintry day, your hypothalamus is responsible for that fact that you are shivering.
You’ll remember what you’re reading due to your hippocampus, whose job it is to transfer short-term to long-term memory. It also enables you to remember that the point of this elaborate example is that you use much more than 10% of your brain.
You can learn about the truth behind some other common brain myths here.