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Ten Percent of Your Brain

MYTH: You use only 10 percent of your brain.

FACTS: This is untrue, for even the most intellectually lazy among us. “Of course we use the whole brain,” says Alarik Arenander, director of the Brain Research Institute at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. “Every cell is ‘on’ from the moment it was born.”

Here’s how the 10 percent myth may have come about, according to an article by the late Barry Beyerstein of the Brain Behavior Laboratory at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and published in Scientific American in 2004. At the turn of the 20th century, the pioneering American psychologist and author William James was fond of saying that “the average person rarely achieves but a small portion of his or her potential.” The nascent self-help movement of the 1930s put a number—10 percent—on that small portion of potential, which evolved into “10 percent of the brain.” When that assertion appeared in the preface of Dale Carnegie’s 1936 best-selling book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, the myth had traction.


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