Do we only use 10 percent of our brains: A misconception or an extraordinary belief?

Believed to have started due to a misquote or misinterpretation of the works of Albert Einstein and Pierre Flourens in the 19th century, the belief escalated through time. It’s not certain if it was due to William James in 1908 or due to Karl Lashley between 1920-1930. Lashley’s involvement in this theory revolves around what we recently stumbled upon in class. His experiments with rats and their brains tell us a lot about how our brains function. He was the one who said that the damage to memory does not depend on where the damage is located in the brain. (Eric, 2005) Though the belief was started due to misinterpretations and misquotes, it was made popular by the most popular folk devil of all times, the internet, social media. The information ones given access by media escalates like wildfire. One interesting thing about this belief is that it was either started or believed by intellectual people, who were great contributions to the field of science. This is why this belief is a bit different than other extraordinary beliefs. When a scientist, who is believed to have high credibility, starts believing in this, it is easy for the public to follow their ideas and beliefs. This belief is still popular to this day. Dr Kalat pointed out another theory for this reasoning. According to him, in the 20th century, neuroscientists were already aware about the huge numbers of neurons that are placed locally in the brain. But unfortunately, they knew very little about these cells, which ultimately got correlated to the 10 percent myth. (Kalat, 1997) It is an extraordinary belief as it does not have any scientific backing. It has no evidence to support the claims.


While talking about why this claim could make sense we need to know that “one reason this myth has endured is that it has been adopted by psychics and other paranormal pushers to explain psychic powers.”(Mikkelson, 2014) The reason it’s used for psychic reasoning is that they easily get away with saying, since most of the people only use 10 percent of their brains, psychics have the special ability to use more than 10 percent, this is the reason they have their ability in the first place. Though it’s a convincing argument, it fails to provide a causal relationship. Even though this would have been a good argument for the claim, more scientific advances and reasoning has debunked this theory. First of all, many brain scans have shown that most of the regions of the brain are active during the day to day routine. (Cherry, 2018) We also know that if this belief was true then there wouldn’t be any significant difference in people who face brain damages, due to accidents. We know this because no matter what part of the brain is damaged it still causes a difference in memory. (Cherry, 2014) There is a default in logic too with this theory, we wouldn’t have such a large brain if we were only allowed to use a small portion of it. (Cherry, 2014)


There are many cognitive contributions that contribute to this belief system. Firstly since the belief came into existence due to intellectual personals, we know that authority plays a big role in this. Whereas we know that authority cannot and should not play a role in scientific claims. Another concept that plays an important role is confirmation bias. The scientists like William James, have invested way too much time and effort in this belief, for them to accept that it is untrue. Therefore they start making illogical interpretations of their research to confirm their beliefs. It is also important to know that post hoc reasoning could have been a reason why people still believe in this belief. As we know psychics claim they are psychics, as they can use more than 10 percent of their brains. Which means the belief led them to believe that they have access to more than a normal person. Post-hoc explanations prevent bad hypotheses from being discarded. People believe in these beliefs because they don’t have anything to lose.  “When the reward is great and the cost of the behavior is minor, the tendency toward superstition is increased.”(Killeen, 1997) In this belief especially the research and studies were misinterpreted. For example one after the other many works of scientists, some who said that only 10 percent of the mind has been mapped, Craig Karges, who said that the brain is divided into two parts. One part is conscious, which is about 10 to 20 percent of the brain and the other part is subconscious which is 80 to 90 percent of the brain. All these theories somehow misinterpreted as humans can only use 10 percent of their brain. (Mikkelson, 2014)


Though the belief started in the 19th century, due to media, it had now got a platform, where millions of people keep misinterpreting the information and making their beliefs stronger. The internet is a platform where anyone and everyone can put their thoughts forward, there are no restrictions on what people say. (Hawkins, 2012) The people who believe in this myth are all over the place and come from all walks of life. Social media platforms like facebook and twitter, always help in spreading news like wildfire.


Finally, in conclusion, we should try our best and not give into these beliefs, we need to think critically, by using 100 percent of our brain to figure out if something actually makes any sense. If we could only leave behind confirmation bias and post hoc reasoning, we will be able to see the real truth. As intellectual people of society, we must learn to know the full truth about a claim before we blindly accept it. We can either follow what other people believe and never be able to discover our full potential or we can use 100 percent of our brain to achieve the greatest we actually deserve.



Hawkins, Sara. “How Free Speech and Social Media Fit Together.” Social Media Marketing | Social Media Examiner, 20 Jan. 2019,

Cherry, Kendra. “Do You Really Use Only 10 Percent of Your Brain?” Verywell Mind, 31 Oct. 2018,

Chudler, Eric H. “Do We Use Only 10% of Our Brain?” Neuroscience For Kids, 13 Oct. 2005,

Mikkelson, David. “FACT CHECK: Do We Only Use Ten Percent of Our Brains?”, 25 July 2014,

Shuttleworth , Martyn. “Post Hoc Reasoning – Failure of Concluding Causality.” Explorable,

Kalat, James W. Biological Psychology. 6th ed., Brooks/Cole Pub Co; 6 Edition (1705).

Reiki: The Healing Power

Reiki is believed to be an alternative medical practice. It is concerned with healing through “external energies”. According to the oxford dictionary “Reiki is a healing technique based on the principle that the therapist can channel energy into the patient by means of touch, to activate the natural healing processes of the patient’s body and restore physical and emotional well-being.” (Oxford english dictionary, 2017) The word Reiki is a combination of two Japanese words Rei and Ki. Rei means ‘a higher power’s wisdom’ and Ki which is considered to be ‘the
energy of life force’. The practice of Reiki was originally founded in Japan by Mikao Usui in the late 20th century. The practice of Reiki was further developed by Chujiro Hayashi. In the late 1930’s the practice of Reiki was introduced to America by an American named Hawayo Takata, who learned Reiki from Hayashi in Japan. Usually the people who have faith in spirits and ghosts are strong believers of Reiki. Some practitioners claim that the spirits help them in
producing the proper flow of energy. Reiki was mostly popular in the olden ages but has been gaining quite a lot of buzz in the recent years. It is an important topic to talk about, as it suffices all the necessary qualities to be deemed as an extraordinary belief. The practice has no credibility in the scientific world.
There are many reasons that point towards the fact that the practice of Reiki is nothing more than an extraordinary belief. Firstly, the scientific and medical societies have not accepted it as an effective therapy. It is not falsifiable, whenever a practitioner fails in any of his sessions, he avoids accusations by making claims about lack of connectivity with the spirits due to lack of faith. In addition, the practitioners claim that all things have a ‘universal life energy’ that helps
them channel their healings. Unfortunately, the ‘universal life energy’ phenomena, is unknown to natural science. The government has invested a lot of time and money to study the practice of Reiki, but the research has only led to one plausible conclusion, that it is a hoax. Reiki claims have been objected by the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
more than five times. On the other hand, the only reason that it is still a part of the alternative medical industry, is because the practitioners have successfully been able to manipulate people into believing this hoax. People all over the world have made claims about how Reiki treatment has changed their lives in a positive way. According to a survey in United States in 2007, Reiki has been tried by more than 1.2 million adults at least once in the year 2006. Even hospitals have
started getting on board with Reiki, by offering these services to their patients.
The five main cognitive processes that we know about are attention, perception, memory, learning and reasoning. As we discussed earlier in the blog people who believe in these kinds of hoax practices need to make a leap in faith. Blind faith as we all know does not take into consideration the five main cognitive processes. The people who believe in these practices have already invested so much time and money, that looking on the other side becomes really hard for them. They find the smallest of changes in their bodies or minds to be a result of the practice. As we had discussed in lecture this is due to fact that the belief might have held behavioral consequences, the person must have done something that is difficult to take back (in this case money), the world refutes the belief, the person recognizes that the event has truly taken place and lastly the person has social support. Due to the fact that Reiki is a practice of superior power from the spirits, researchers often fail to reject the null hypothesis. One of the main reasons why
people follow Reiki is because of the practitioners who are like minded people, like the believers, due to this they relate to what the practitioner puts forth. Confirmation bias is something that plays a large role in these kinds of beliefs. People tend to look for evidence that sustain their beliefs.

When we talk about the contributions due to which this belief prevails. We can only talk about faith. Faith is something that requires the banishment of doubt. Even if research proves otherwise, people choose not to give into it. Because at the end of the day the only thing that matters is faith. Faith is to humanity what food it to the homeless. It is faith which makes life worth living. It is faith that motivates humans to lead a positive life. Faith in the unknown is something people all over the world cherish.
In conclusion the only thing that makes sense in the scientific world is that, the practice of Reiki is a hoax, it isn’t supported by scientific evidence. It fails most of the scientific tests, it is an unfalsifiable claim, it’s a retreat to the supernatural. People believe in it as their conviction increases when faced by opposing evidence. Last but not the least, it is easy for people to give into faith as it is the driving force for most of the human beings.
Newman, T. (2017, September 06). Reiki: What is it and what are the benefits? Retrieved from

Barrett, S. (n.d.). Reiki Is Nonsense. Retrieved February 09, 2019, from