Do We Really Only Use 10% of Our Brains?

A 2013 poll found that 65% of US citizens believe that most people only 10% of their brains. And it could make sense. It would certainly explain why some people are smarter than others after all. It could even show why we become smarter with age. But is this really true?


Not really. Sometimes, like when we’re having a rest and thinking, we may use only 10% of our brains. But this is normally not the case. Evidence shows that in a typical day, we normally use 100% of our brains. Even when carrying out the simply act of pouring a coffee, we use several parts of the brain at once such as the basal ganglia, frontal lobes and cerebellum.

Our Brains are Plastic

Just think about someone that has lost a limb. The part of the brain that controlled the limb doesn’t become useless. Instead, it is repurposed and used to do something else. And the same happens when peoples’ brains suffer injuries or have had parts removed. Rather than losing function, often other parts of the brain simply take over the tasks that the damaged or missing parts used to do.  

Where Did the Myth Come From?

No one really knows. Some say this became a myth thanks to journalist misquoting American psychologist William James. Rather than “We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources”, the journalist said that the average person “only develops 10% of his latent mental ability”. Others say that Einstein attributed his intellect to being able to use more than 10% of his brain, although this is a myth too. 

To conclude, although we may not use 100% of our brains all the time, we tend to use 100% of them each day. It’s unclear where the 10% brain usage myth comes from however today’s science easily proves that it is wrong.

Sarah Chung

Raised in Hong Kong, now living in New York. A serial optimist, I love finding ways to improve to enjoy life even more.