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"potential"

Julie Chason jchason at s.psych.uiuc.edu
Sun Dec 22 18:30:06 EST 1996


ravena at cco.caltech.edu (Karen Allendoerfer) writes:

>In article <E2t8GI.KC2 at liverpool.ac.uk>, wahchan at liverpool.ac.uk (Mr. W.Y.
>Chan) wrote:


>> I hate it when someone tells you that but the truth is no one is using
>> their "true potential" otherwise our potential would be limitless, as
>> Albert Einstein puts it "on average man only use 10% of their mental capacity"


>Does anyone know where this came from?  I've heard the variant, 'you only
>use 10% of your brain' many times, and after 9 years spent studying
>Neuroscience, I have not come across one shred of evidence for these vast,
>untapped brain areas.



I think this may have come from Karl Lashley's work in which 
he  a) failed to find specific learning/memory deficits after
lesioning the cortex of rats, and b) found a general performance
deficit the increased with the amount but not the location of the
deficit.  He interpreted this to mean that function was highly
distributed in the brain, although now it's thought that the
problem was that his maze tasks required so many different kinds
of tasks that it was far to gross a measure to find specific
deficits.  I believe the idea that massive brain damage could be
done withough completely destroying all functioning may have
caught on as meaning that there was a great deal of redundancy.
Perhaps stories of people with brain damage bing able to function
may have contributed to this notion as well.  Finally, a lot of
people want to believe that they have secret, untapped powers
(natural and otherwise), and the idea that most of us are only
running at 10% has a certain appeal as a result.

I would be interested to know if there are more specific events
that would have led to this belief.

Julie Chason
Human Perception and Performance Group
Beckman Institute
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign



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