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Using only Ten Percent of our Brain? Try One-Hundred

Updated on September 28, 2016
Dean Traylor profile image

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher. He is a former journalist who has worked on various community and college publications.

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

The Myth

Go to any party, sit in a classroom, or stand near an office watercooler 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 social circles. Whenever someone wants to point out some truly amazing fact, comment on humanity’s lack of cerebral skills, or get some message across to an audience, somebody is bound to bring it up.


The Reality

There’s a “slight” problem with this saying: There’s no proof that this statement is true. In fact, there’s no scientific evidence for it.

The saying is a myth. Research in the area can debunk this statement. 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.

There are some cases that may lend credence to this statement. It’s often reported that patients have had portion of their removed, but managed to keep most, if not all, of their cerebral functions. Still, in many cases, it appears the brain merely reorders its functions instead of transferring many of it to “unused” portions of the brain.

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.

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


10 Percent or 100. You Decide

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

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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. One may have been a misquote of Albert Einstein’s speech. Another suggestion was a misinterpretation of 19th century French physiologist Pierre Flourens’ research.

The work of scientist Karl Lashley in the 1920s and 1930s has been suggested as a starting point. According to the 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’s 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.

More Information on the myth (from TED Talk)

© 2014 Dean Traylor


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    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 16 months ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Hiya, Dean that was an informative video and for so long I was captivated by the 10 percent myth. I went to see a SCI-fi film titled "Lucy" in which the title character received an overdose of some drug which gave her enhanced mental abilities. This all assuming that the 10 percent myth was true. Her mental abilities accelerated throughout the film until she reached the 100 percent level, bestowing upon her God like abilities and power. Captivated by the concept, I looked all this up and found the 10 percent idea to be so much BS. But it was nice to contemplate the possibility of such enhancements for myself, even if only a little....

      Great article, Dean, thanks.....

    • Dean Traylor profile image

      Dean Traylor 19 months ago from Southern California

      ptosis: lmao

    • ptosis profile image

      ptosis 19 months ago from Arizona

      Perhaps only for Politicos only, eh?

    • m abdullah javed profile image

      muhammad abdullah javed 3 years ago

      Hi Dean thanks for an excellent hub. Yes I am of the same opinion that we use a negligible portion of the brain but not sure what percentage might fit into its justification. I think when it comes to contemplation or deep sense of understanding of a particular thing the synchronisation between brain and heart is quite significant, this aspect also needs to be focused.

    • SAQIB6608 profile image

      SAQIB 3 years ago from HYDERABAD PAKISTAN

      Well organised hub, No one can enter the brains but I still think God has really made the neurons for lots of deliberation and contemplation. To use in the right direction is the key.

      People like Einstein, Galillilio, Galilee are Newton rare who used their brain to larger extent.