Marilyn is Mistaken about Brain Hemisphere Specialization

Marilyn is Wrong Copyright © 1997-1998 Herb Weiner. All rights reserved.

Ask Marilyn ® by Marilyn vos Savant is a column in Parade Magazine, published by PARADE, 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA. According to Parade, Marilyn vos Savant is listed in the "Guinness Book of World Records Hall of Fame" for "Highest IQ."

In her Parade Magazine column of December 1, 1996, Marilyn accuses a reader of assuming "that I used male right brained analysis to arrive at an incorrect answer."

Check your Facts, Marilyn

Susan Vaughn <> wrote that:
As a university instructor who lectures on this issue, I can say with great confidence that "Marilyn certainly botched it." Scientists have long believed that intuitive, abstract thought originates from the "right hemisphere" of the brain, not the left. Rational, logical thought is processed on the left.

Did Marilyn Really Know?

Richard Hanley <> responds:
It is not obvious to me that Marilyn is claiming what you interpret her to be claiming. As a quite general point, whenever someone ascribes a mental state to another, they are not themselves comitted to the content of that mental state. If I say, "Clinton assumes that God will forgive him," I may be correct even if it's not true that God will forgive him (say, God exists but won't forgive him, or else God doesn't exist). Marilyn may be committed to the truth of the ascription, "You are assuming that I used male right-brained analysis to arrive at an incorrect answer," without being committed to the embedded proposition you credit her with asserting.

Indeed, it's not clear from the limited context cited that she's even committed to this much. Perhaps the whole thing is just her ironical way of suggesting that the reader is something of an idiot!

Richard's interpretation is not ruled out, but would it not be irresponsible of Marilyn to imply to readers, most of whom would not know the difference, that analysis really is a right brained activity? last updated August 18, 1998 by