A few months ago I was chatting with my old pal, and top neuroscientist, Adrian Owen. Adrian and I went to University together many years ago. I don’t want to say how long ago it was, but suffice to say that Charles Darwin was Head of Department. Anyway, I digress.
Adrian and I were chatting about a possible brain-based project and I decided to Google the word ‘brain’. That’s when I noticed something very odd. The vast majority of the images showed a brain looking to its right – that is, the viewer was seeing the left lobe. Adrian pointed out that, structurally speaking, one side of the brain is no more interesting to than the other, and so wondered what was going on.
I was aware that several psychologists – including Professor Chris McManus – have discovered that the majority of people featured in portraits also tended to look to their right. Over the years, researchers have suggested several possible explanations for the effect, including, for example, the idea that the left side of the face is more expressive than the right, or that Westerners read left to right and so would encounter the front of the face first.
But did the bias even extend to images of brains? To find out, Adrian and I downloaded hundreds of brain images, categorized them and discovered that a whopping 80% were indeed looking to their right! It was true regardless of whether the image included a head or not.
We have recently published our findings in the scientific journal i-perception, and you can read the paper here. (P.S. The image in the paper is wrongly labelled – the correct image is shown below).