Team Elements: Truth with Half a Brain

by Ron

Do you use half or all of your brain to understand the truth?

We’ve been introducing and preparing ourselves to walk through the elements that make great teams. The first of these is Truth. Great teams can tell each other the truth. But truth needs some special understanding.

“Any one with half a brain…”

“Anyone with half a brain can see the truth.” That’s an old saying that expresses some derision toward someone who doesn’t see the truth as you see it. The implication is that if you used even half your brain, you would see the truth.

Have you noticed that people (sometimes yourself) “know” the truth? But if you point out to them that someone else sees things differently, their reaction is the other person has a perspective, but you have the truth.

Separating the brain

Years ago, it was discovered that the cure for people who have extreme epilepsy is to sever their brain halves. Each half of the brain is still fully functional; it’s just that the two halves don’t communicate with each other anymore.

For people who went through this procedure, their epilepsy issues were cured. One patient said “You don’t notice that your brain halves are not working together. You just adapt to it. You don’t feel any different than you did before.” However, the researchers did notice a difference.

To further clarify this difference they created an experiment with some of the earliest patients. These first experiments were conducted in the days before the personal computer, so they used the technology available to them at the moment, a View-Finder. With a View-Finder, each eye sees a slightly different image. The intended purpose was to give a sense of 3-D depth perception. The researchers modified this technology slightly and gave the patient entirely different photos in each eye. In the right eye, they showed the patient a picture of a women. In the left eye, there was a picture of a man.

Before placing the View-Finder to the patient’s eyes, they asked the patient to describe what they saw in the View-Finder. After a few seconds of observing, the patient described the women (in her right eye) in complete detail. When asked if she saw anything else the answer was “No, I described the woman as completely as I could.”

Then the patient was asked to repeat the experiment, but this time instead of describing what she saw, she was to pick out the image of what she saw from a group of images. After viewing the View-Finder for a few seconds, the patient pointed to the picture of the man that appeared in the left eye. In both cases, the pictures of the man and the woman appeared in the same eye. However, the patient was “manipulated” to either verbalize what she saw or point to a point at what she saw. In other words, the researchers could control which image the person saw and remembered by setting them up ahead of time. Verbal description caused the person to describe the image in the right eye. Muscle and physical control caused the person to describe the image in the left eye. Their “truth” was dictated simply by prepping them for how they would answer the question.

A similar experiment conducted with another patient years later with the use of a personal computer provided the same results. This time the patient was asked to concentrate on a dot right in the middle of their computer monitor, and then two images were flashed on the screen: one image to the right of the dot, the other image to the left of the dot.

When the patient was asked to describe what they saw, they described the hammer that appeared to the right of center. When asked to draw what they saw, they drew the screwdriver that appeared to the left of center. When asked to describe what they had drawn, the answer was a screwdriver. When asked why they drew a screwdriver when they originally described a hammer the answer was “I don’t know.”

So, what was truth to that person? The man or the woman? The hammer or screwdriver? The answer is both answers were true. But the brain used some pre-determined criteria to be aware of and record for memory the “truth.”

Current day brain science has taken us a step further. Because of the functional MRI, brain scientist can track an image as it enters through our eyes all the way to being implanted in our memory. What they have found is that the image doesn’t go directly to memory. They’ve been able to determine that once our eye perceives the image, it is parsed into about 127 million bits of information, sent through at least 12 (they think as many as 24) processing centers in the brain, then processed through the older centers of the brain for object recognition and motion detection before being reassembled in our memory.

These early discovered centers include:

  • Values
  • Emotions
  • Goals
  • Beliefs
  • Ideas
  • Happy/Sad
  • Memories
  • Pain
  • Stress

This clears up the old question, do you believe what you see or see what you believe. You see what you believe.

Team Perspective

Courtroom judges will tell you that if two eyewitnesses tell the court exactly the same version of what happened, they know they’ve colluded. Judges know that no two people see the same event in exactly the same way.

So, if our goal is to speak the truth with each other or to get at the truth as a team, we need to start with the premise that we each have our perspective. Great teams value and understand each of those unique perspectives and then work hard to develop a collective team “truth.” What will be the team perspective based on all of our individual perspectives? What will be the truth that solutions will based on so that the team can move forward with unity and commitment?

By sharing beliefs and assumptions plus perspective of the situation, great teams begin to build an understanding of what they face and how to move forward.

Use your whole brain plus have the respect (next series of blog posts) to allow for the diverse points of view held by all team members. You’ll have a better chance of succeeding and be happier doing it.

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