ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Using Only Ten Percent of Our Brain? Try One-Hundred

Updated on September 16, 2019
Dean Traylor profile image

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.

Using ten percent of your brain.  Originally from
Using ten percent of your brain. Originally from

The 10% Myth

This kernel of knowledge is heard everywhere. Go to any party, sit in a classroom, or stand near an office water-cooler where employees congregate; you’re eventually going to hear the statement: “You know, human only use 10% of their brains.”

It’s a philosophical quip that has made its round in many social circles for generations. Whenever someone wants to point out some truly amazing fact, comment on humanity’s lack of cerebral skills, or get some allegorical or symbolic message across to an audience, somebody is bound to use this nifty piece of intelligence.


The Reality: Think a Higher Number

There’s a “slight” problem with this saying: There’s no proof that this statement is true. In fact, it's scientifically impossible.

This myth may make you sound smart when you say it; however (and please excuse the pun) your not really using your head by regurgitating this bit of information

Just think for a moment on how the brain works. It controls our body's movements and functions. We think, feel, create memorize, and store memory. In a sense, we continually learn and get smarter, thanks to that thing between our ears.

Not convinced? Simply check out the research from those who know a thing or two about the brain and how it works. Many in the field of neuroscience have discovered that 100% of the brain is being used for various activities such as motor skills or critical thinking.

Still, the brain is extremely complex and the understanding of it is far from complete

Still, in many cases, it appears the brain merely reorders its functions, instead of transferring many of it to “unused” portions of the brain.

Our Flexible Brain

Our brain, it turns out is very flexible, too. If damaged, in some cases, it can rewire itself. It’s often reported that patients have had portion of their brain removed, but managed to keep most, if not all, of their cerebral functions.

Often, these cases involve those who had been lobotomized as a means to control epileptic seizures. Possibly the brain's wiring circumvented the damaged tissues, thus shutting down any brain function in this area. In all likelihood, removal of this part of the brain was needed. Still these are exceptional cases.

In many cases, damage to the brain can have irreversible effects and the loss of brain function can lead to major health problems. It is known that damages to the brain – even a small portion of it - can have devastating effects on the person.

Strokes can affect the part of the brain that controls motor function. Even drug abuse can affect impairment, cognitive thinking or memory. People labeled as having traumatic brain injury (TBI) - which are caused by any blow to the head – will have permanent brain damage affecting a series of functions.

In this situation, having 10% of brain function, would mean the person would be in a vegetative state ( and that would possibly the best-case scenario).

Lashley “removed large areas of the cerebral cortex in rats and found these animals could still re-learn specific tasks.”

Origin of the saying

Is it possible the statement came at a time when only 10% of the brain’s function was understood by researcher? That’s impossible to answer. Then again, the origin of this saying is impossible to pinpoint and has remained elusive over the years.

“Neuroscience for Kids” a website created by The University of Washington, detailed several likely sources:

  • A possible misquote from one of Albert Einstein’s speech.
  • A misinterpretation of 19th century French physiologist Pierre Flourens’s research.

The work of scientist Karl Lashley in the 1920s and 1930s has been suggested as a starting point to figuring out this myth’s origin. According to another University of Washington website, Lashley “removed large areas of the cerebral cortex in rats and found these animals could still re-learn specific tasks. As compelling as it sounds, there is no evidence he came up with the 10% measurement.

There’s some suggestion that the statement didn’t come from a scientist. The American writer William James may have written something closely resembling the famous saying in 1908. He wrote in the book, Energies of Men: “We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.” Again, how this may have lead to the saying with its exact numerical finding is a mystery.

Whatever the case may be, this statement managed to catch on with many people, including those in the media and in the educational field. There are dozens of advertisements espousing this myth to the populous, as well.

The statement sounds nifty and has an “intellectual” ring to it. Ironically, it’s not scientifically supported. Thus, if you hear it at a party or around the water cooler, use all 100 percent of your brain, and realize the statement is false.

10 Percent or 100. You Decide

Do you believe we only use 10% of our brain?

See results

More Information on the myth (from TED Talk)

© 2014 Dean Traylor


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)