Lateral thinkers are not so laterally minded: hemispheric asymmetry, interaction, and creativity

Laterality. 2011 Jul;16(4):479-98. doi: 10.1080/1357650X.2010.497813.


The biological basis of creativity remains a topic of contention. A long-held view suggests that whereas the left hemisphere is intelligent and analytic, the right hemisphere is the source of all creativity. Consequently, activating the right hemisphere should enhance creative thinking, prompting a plethora of popular books hawking a right hemisphere solution to topics ranging from drawing, to money management, to sex. More recently, an alternate proposal has suggested that creativity is not a lateralised function; instead, creativity is argued to stem from the interaction and integration of information across both the left and right hemispheres. According to this view, individuals with greater interhemispheric communication and/or less-lateralised brains will evidence enhanced creative ability. This paper reviews the neural basis of creativity to determine whether creativity stems from activation of the right hemisphere, or from the interaction of both hemispheres. The relationship between creativity and psychopathology is also examined, evaluating the evidence for a causal link between disorders such as schizophrenia, hemispheric activation, and enhanced creativity. Although the research reviewed indicates greater right hemisphere activity during creative tasks, the interaction between many varied, often distant, cortical regions across both the left and right hemispheres is also a crucial component of creativity. This interaction facilitates the integration of a variety of separate cognitive abilities, fostering creative thinking. As such, creativity is better conceptualised as a distributed, rather than a purely lateralised, function; more lateral thinkers have less lateralised brains.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebrum / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Creativity*
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intelligence / physiology
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Schizophrenic Psychology
  • Thinking / physiology*