Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

My girlfriend Gretchen has been working through Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards, and she decided to write a blog post about it.  I understand that “left” and “right” brain designations are somewhat outdated.  But there does seem to be some sort of mapping between the idea of an intuitive right brain and Kahneman‘s idea of System 1, while the rational left brain maps to System 2.

I haven’t read Edwards’ book myself, but one key idea that jumps out is that our preconceived notions of the things we are seeing can prevent us from perceiving them accurately.  This idea has been borne out somewhat by those transcranial magnetic stimulation experiments where subjects are able to draw much better when their left anterior temporal lobe is temporarily disrupted.  Though in those experiments they appear to be drawing from memory instead of from life, so this connection may be tenuous.

But this poses an interesting problem.  We seem to need abstractions of reality in order to reason about it, but these abstractions necessarily discard information.  The map is not the territory and all that (though reasoning (rationality) is not the sum of cognition).  Get Monica Anderson on the phone!  She loves these holism/reductionism quandries.  Of course the radical enactivists would have us discard the idea of cognition as representation altogether.  So they might deny something at the very heart of the map/territory argument: cognition requires representation.  I have to look up the enactivist take on rationality.  But they do love the idea that perception is self-directed.  It’s probably useful to keep in mind that our own conceptual frameworks are continually constraining our vision.  Though we may or may not be able to avoid that entirely.