Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Logic vs the Creative Spirit

"Mom, lace your fingers together!" my eldest tells me early one morning, apropros of nothing. She's just appeared at my bedroom door and her voice is filled with excitement.

"Wh--?" I manage groggily.

"Come on, put your fingers together, like this." She holds her hands up and shows me, wiggling her fingers. For just a moment, I have a flashback: this is the church and this is the steeple, open the doors and see -- no people! I turn over onto my side and flail about for the clock. I can't find it.

"But -- what time is it?" I groan.

"It's not that early. Go on -- just do it!"

I do it. It's the only way I'm going to get any peace.

"Okay, now put one of your thumbs over the other one."

I take a deep breath and do this too. "Now can I go back to sleep? Please?"

"Ha! I knew it! You put your left thumb over your right thumb!"

"So what?"

"So that means that you're the emotional type. Artistic, creative, intuitive. That you use the side of your brain that deals with all those things." The way she says it, it doesn't really sound like a good thing to be.

"I put my right thumb over my left thumb," she announces with pride. "That means I'm the practical, logical type."

"No kidding? You, logical?" I say, but the irony is lost on her. Logical and practical she may be, but subtle she is not.

In fact, I actually think there is something to this right-thumb left-thumb test. When my husband was asked to do it, he immediately put his right thumb over his left. And he and the eldest are so much alike it just isn't true: both of them are masters at logic who could argue the hind legs off a donkey. My younger child, on the other hand, is an airy-fairy day dreamer who, like me, is easily bamboozled in debates. Even when we know in our hearts that we are right, we allow ourselves to be confounded by the more logical, eloquent types. Which is to say, the other two members of this family.

When she took the test, the younger kid strongly argued that she was logical too, that she had put her right thumb over her left. But I was watching carefully and I saw which thumb went over which first. I'm afraid she's on my team, poor kid.

"Mom," can I have thirty more minutes on the computer?" the eldest will ask me.

"No. You've been staying up far too late as it is."

"Please! I was really good about getting up this morning -- you said so yourself!"

I sigh. I want to encourage her to be better about getting up in the morning, so like an idiot, I go ahead and say yes. Two hours later, on my way to the toilet I happen to notice that the light is still on in the computer room. Sure enough, it's her, still sitting there at the computer, tapping away. "You're still up!" I cry. "You said all you needed was thirty more minutes!"

"But I had to have a shower and then I had to put the dishes away!"

"Well, that's not MY problem! You said only thirty more minutes!"

"I didn't say I'd be in bed in thirty minutes," she points out, "I just said I needed thirty more minutes on the computer and --" she sticks out her arm and shows me her watch --"I've only been here for twenty-eight minutes!"

"For God's sake, get to bed! Your thirty minutes are up!"

"No they're not. I've got two more minutes. In fact, THREE more minutes because this conversation has taken a whole minute!"

And so help me God, she stays on for another three minutes. I can't win and she knows it. I just don't have her logical skills: my left thumb went over my right.


Eryl Shields said...

Nietzsche argued that 'logic is an attempt to comprehend actuality by means of a scheme of being we ourselves proposed', that is it's a human construct designed to help us make sense of the world in our own terms. Thus it is subject to the same human failings as any other thing we try to impose on ourselves and the world.

He also argues that reason is just a word for the way we try to control our emotions. And I can't help thinking he has a point. Logical, reasonable types are just those people who have the ability to work the system to their best advantage. Not all systems, just the semi-scientific one we happen to inhabit, and value, at this time.

Your type (and I fit into this category too) however has the ability to create her own system, her own way of living. I'd rather be creative than conformist, even though it means alot of people dismiss me as eccentric, quirky or even mad. My own husband included.

Mary Witzl said...

Eryl, this is so logical that I can barely understand it! Fortunately for me, my eldest happened to be standing over my shoulder and read it with me. "Hey!" she exclaimed. "This means that logical people suck!" Whew -- glad she explained it to me! Now I can see that my own logic (or lack thereof) has helped me make sense of the world in my own terms. All this time logic has seemed so elusive to me, like pure happiness, perhaps, or God.

I went to give blood yesterday, and I still had my gardening clothes on and my fingernails were less than what they should be. Call me paranoid, but those nurses took one look at me, a middle-aged woman a few pounds over the limit, not aging particularly gracefully and in mud-encrusted boots -- yes, 'quirky' would have been the nicest word that anyone there would have used to describe me...

Brian said...

Oh dear , and here was I hoping to be logically creative and/or creatively logical.

Philosophy , I can tell you , to my mind sucks -- dismiss it to Heraclitean fire and flux !


eg(scotland) said...

What does it mean if you put your thumbs together? A bit of both? Boring? Unbalanced?

Actually, I put left over right and am now quite chuffed about that. But usually in these sort of things I come out as being in the 'hub' or whatever - not one thing or the other - bland, banal and boring. Problem is I've supressed my creative side for too long - but now my thumbs tell me something different!


Mary Witzl said...

The odd thing is, when the kid told me to put one thumb over the other, for just a nanosecond I contemplated putting the right over the left. Then I thought 'no' and put the left over the right. Weird, huh?

In fact, I'm rather proud of having put my left thumb over my right myself. But I grew up in a family where logic was not greatly prized, so I suspect that I have long suppressed, or neglected, what tiny bit of a logical side I may have.

Eryl Shields said...

I remember having to do some test, when I worked, about whether I was a right brain or left brain person. I was 49% one and 51% the other (I can't remember which way) this, I was told, meant I was doomed to a life of confusion. And so it has proved to be, but at least I have an excuse.

Mary Witzl said...

That really is interesting! I wish I could take that test. I wonder what my score would be: 97% - 3% most likely, and yet I've certainly had quite a bit of confusion in my life.

When I was 16, we had to take pre-SATs in high school, and one of the tests was on mechanical reasoning (I cannot remember what it was actually called). My score was something like 25%, and the principal of the school was so intrigued by how I managed this that he wanted to go over it with me. Apparently I had the greatest discrepancy between scores of anyone in the school: 25% on mechanical reasoning versus whatever very good score I got on the languages part of the exam. The principal asked if I'd been feeling ill during that part of the test, but in fact, I can remember trying my damnedest on that mechanical reasoning section.

Pathetic, really, and yet I look perfectly normal.

Brian said...


I was told by a careers adviser in about 1944 that I could become an engineer !!!!

Just think of all those unbuilt bridges !


Kim Ayres said...

My left thumb went over my right, but I was always considered the logical one in my family.Maybe it's because my father is an artist, and so is my wife, that someone has to be the one who can think things through logically.

Eryl's right though - logic is just a system applied to the event. It's a tool, not a truth. You can have extremely logical arguments that are completely wrong.

Just because you have a straight road in front of you, doesn't mean it's going in the right direction.

Hmmm, don't know where that one just came from.

As well as being very logical, I'm pretty intuitive too, which means I never fit comfortably on one side or another of these debates.

However, you wanted a quiz, so here's one for you:

Mary Witzl said...

Thank you for that, Kim! I have taken the test and my results were 30% left-sided and 70% right-sided. But the big shock is that my husband, who also took the test, is 40% right-sided and 60% left-sided, so he and I are not so far apart despite his obvious advantage over me in the logic department.

I felt frustrated that I could not answer in more detail than 'yes' or 'no' because half the time my reaction was 'Yes, but --' or 'It depends.' For instance, my desk is untidy, but that is largely because my kids come along and mess it up. I listen to music while I work, but it has to be a certain type, and while I do listen to how people are expressing themselves, I probably pay as much attention to the content of what they are saying...

Charlie said...

I had a tough time with this. First it was my right thumb, then it was my left, and then they started . . . twiddling.

My scientific analysis is that I'm 25% creative, 25% logical, and 50% no-brainer.

Eryl Shields said...

I just did the test and was 30/70 in favour of right brain. I must have come on creatively since I left full time employment. Though when I do the fingers thing my right goes over my left everytime. So I'm still confused.

My 'logical' husband came out 35/65 in favour of right so he's not as logical as he thinks and has obviously been supressing his creative side.

Mary Witzl said...

My own ratio is probably 35-15-50, then...

I've always suspected that in the part of my brain where direction, coordination, abstract analysis and reason cells ought to be stored, there is a Big Fat Nothing instead. I always picture a brain assembly line; there my brain was, rolling along with the other brains, ready for its helping of logic, etc., and the guy that was doling it out must have decided to go on his coffee break just then. My head was packaged up just like all the other heads with their perfectly filled brains, and only after I started kindergarten did it begin to get dicey. So who do I complain to about quality control?

Mary Witzl said...

Sorry, Eryl -- our posts crossed.

So you're another 30/70 person! We should form a club...

eg(scotland) said...

Oh my gosh - I came out of the test as 15 (L) and 85 (R) - that really, really surprised me. I thought it would be much closer. I did dither over a few questions though where I would have liked to have answered a bit of both.


Mary Witzl said...

Yes, EG, I also hate tests where you are given only two options. I always see shades of grey and want to answer a bit of both. I used to irritate teachers by adding my own comments on True-False tests, as a child...

eg(scotland) said...

Mary - I'm really interested in your comments. I note from your profile that your in HR. What then do you think of some of the psychometric testing used in recruitment/ promotion assessments. I'll say up front that I've been 'subjected' to such testing fairly recently - so my question is a bit loaded. But obviously you don't have to answer.

I'll probably be writing a bit more about this in my blog in the coming weeks.


eg(scotland) said...

I did mean 'you're' not 'your'!

Mary Witzl said...

EG, I blush to admit this, but when I submitted my profile, I had to choose from a selection of various occupations, and 'human resources' was the closest thing I could find to what I actually do now, which is, effectively, raising teenagers. For over a dozen years I was a teacher, proof-reader, rewriter and translator of educational materials in Japan. There is sadly little call for Japanese-English translators in Scotland.

I have heard about psychometric testing, and the thought of it makes me glad I am no longer out there trying to find a job. It's bad enough having to polish up one's CV and put on panty-hose for interviews, but having to undergo a series of tests that are supposed to shed light on one's particular character weaknesses and strengths, skills, deficits, etc. -- that is just too much. I tend to loathe all tests anyway and always wish there was another way to show one's worth or lack thereof.

Brian said...

I have no blog of my own , but through other correspondents I been put onto quite a lot of them. Unlike THIS blog , many of them have belonged to teenagers full of their particular angst . I don't read much in any of them , just enough to see if they are intelligent , but I especially avoid those that set up "memes " for testing yourself to find out what kind of personality you are, eg what "colour" you are , what kind of cocktail you are or whether you are a gnome or an elf or just an ordinary fairy -- and so on .

All due respect to Kim , but that L/R brain quiz was a load of old cobblers, so badly constructed as to be risible !

There are indeed legitimate scientific experiments in the area , that are aimed at discovering relevant facts, but nobody with either a Left or a Right dominant brain could take THAT one seriously .

I am also pleased that I am long out of the employment ratrace , because I am sure that if some idiot employment counsellor wanted to put me through one of those recent style aptitude tests , designed , I gather, to see whether you would be willing to crawl to the boss and conform to the corporate mentality , I might well belt him (or even her if it comes to that ) , with the appropriately bulky test folder .

As you can see , I have a bit of a thing about counsellors , of almost every kind !


Mary Witzl said...

Yesiree, I'm not a teenager with angst, I'm a middle-aged woman with angst. Normally, I'd be called a nag, but I get to write about it in a blog and people come and read it.

I read about 'memes' on Charlie's blog and was grateful to him for enlightening me, as it might have been years before I figured it out. Me a cocktail, elf, gnome, fairy? Sorry, no, I'm a nag, and I talk too much. I'll settle for that.

You make a very good point here, Brian. I imagine that's just what those psychometric tests are looking for: yes-men who will happily do the boss's bidding and team-play, even when it goes against their tiny consciences.

I don't really expect any test to tell me what kind of brain I have in less than five minutes. Some of the questions cannot be answered adequately as simply 'yes' or 'no' and that is always the case with tests. Every time I take an exam I can spot the pitfalls in it, and this one was no exception. Besides, I already know what kind of brain I have after living with it all these decades -- just as I expect you know that you couldn't really build bridges!

Still, taking it was fun, and do I get to keep the 30% left brain? It made me feel smarter.

eg(scotland) said...

Mary - thanks for coming back and answering my question - I'm sorry didn't mean to make you blush - but I see the HR connection with what you're doing now. You've done some very interesting stuff.

Brian - you're absolutely right that psychometric tests are looking for a particular type of person - yet it takes different types to make the world go round.

As I said, I intend to write a bit more about this soon, simply because of the impact that such testing has had on me.


Eryl Shields said...

You're not a nag you're just someone who is forced to constantly repeat herself in order to make herself heard.

Mary Witzl said...

I know, Eryl -- and I've told my family this thousands of times. But will they listen?

Feminists used to say that when women repeated themselves it was nagging, but when men did this, they were reinforcing what they'd said earlier. Or something similar. I often feel that I repeat myself as a parent because I lack a certain confidence; my husband is much more effective in getting the kids to do what he wants them to do. And yet, for all of that, I am probably more confident than he is in most respects. Go figure!

EG, I'm looking forward to reading what you have to say about psychometric testing -- but once again, I repeat myself!

Jochebed Abijah said...

Well...I took the quiz, and the first time, the results came out 45% left brained and 55% right brained. The second time I took the test, the results were exactly 50-50. O.o;

Now, I've always been considered creative, but when I did the thumb test, my right thumb went over my left thumb. I did it again, and my left thumb went over my right. o.O;

So the essential point of this comment is I am very confused. -_-;

Mary Witzl said...

Jochebed -- I can't really take this test very seriously, as the results seem awfully variable. I am always amused that the questions they ask on these tests never seem to take the grey areas into account. You might want to give an answer that is 60% yes, 40% no, but you are not allowed to do this; you have to be exact. In order for a test like this to be completely accurate, I think it would probably take a few hours and be far more complex.