It’s a complex, constantly multi-tasking network of tissue—but the myth persists.
By now, perhaps you’ve seen the trailer for the new sci-fi thriller Lucy. It starts with a flurry of stylized special effects and Scarlett Johansson serving up a barrage of bad-guy beatings. Then comes Morgan Freeman, playing a professorial neuroscientist with the obligatory brown blazer, to deliver the film’sfamiliar premise to a full lecture hall: “It is estimated most human beings only use 10 percent of the brain’s capacity. Imagine if we could access 100 percent. Interesting things begin to happen.”
Johansson as Lucy, who has been kidnapped and implanted with mysterious drugs, becomes a test case for those interesting things, which seem to include even more impressive beatings and apparently some kind of Matrix-esque time-warping skills.
Of course, the idea that “you only use 10 percent of your brain” is, indeed, 100 hundred percent bogus. Why has this myth persisted for so long, and when is it finally going to die?
Unfortunately, not any time soon. A survey last year by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research found that 65 percent of Americans believe the myth is true, 5 percent more than those who believe in evolution. Even Mythbusters, which declared the statistic a myth a few years ago, furthermuddied the waters: The show merely increased the erroneous 10 percent figure and implied, incorrectly, that people use 35 percent of their brains.