The Movie Lucy says that we only use 10% of our brains?

The movie Lucy, by Luc Besson, in 2014 features well-known actors Morgan Freeman and Scarlet Johansson. The movie follows Johansson’s character, Lucy, as she accidentally becomes a drug carrier for her boyfriend in Taiwan. After her boyfriend’s death, the drug lord kidnaps her and surgically places the drugs into her abdomen to transfer to Europe. During an altercation with a gang member, the bag breaks within her—leaking the drug into her system. Then throughout the movie, as Lucy tries to stop the criminal empire, the leaked drugs cause her brain to have more energy. This energy slowly boosts her brain capacity from 10% to 100%. With every increase of brain capacity, the more ‘powers’ she receives; such as, telekinesis, telepathy, shape shifting, and being unable to feel pain (to name a few). Along with the powers, Lucy goes through a personality change, turning her into more of an analytical and emotionless person who claims that with more power she ‘looses what makes her human’.

Now, is the movie true when saying that we only use 10% of our brain? Unfortunately, not.

In Dr. Beyerstein’s article, Do We Really Only Use Ten Percent of Our Brain, he goes into detail about why the myth that humans only use 10% of their brain is only that—a myth. He talked about one of the main reasons why it should be obvious that it is a myth is because of natural selection. Like other animals and plants in the world, humans were naturally selected. It is strange to think about, you normally think about Darwin and natural selection with butterflies or lizards in science classes, but it is true. Humans and our brains had natural selection, meaning that only the important stuff was left after thousands of years of perfecting it. It would make no sense to have thousands of years of perfection and still not use 90% of our brains.

Also, Beyerstein wrote that it is already proven that if a person has a brain injury, no matter where in the brain, there will be some type of consequence. It could be not recognizing your loved ones, to thinking that they are robots replacing them, to not being able to make memories at all in the future. It would be impossible to have such drastic effects on a person from even a small brain injury if the brain wasn’t used in most areas; or if it was, it was such a small percentage for the entire body. And with new amazing brain scanning technology being built and improved upon every day (from CT scans, to PET scans, to MRIs, to fMRIs) scientists and doctors can see exactly what is going on in the human brain. They see that everything is not only working at 100%, but the parts are working together to make humans human.

Now, understanding why the myth is false, it brings up the question: where did the myth come from? This is a popular myth that has been used in Hollywood, other professors, and even Albert Einstein, something that influential couldn’t have come from nowhere. In Beyerstein’s article, and another article from Neuroscience for Kids, the myth was tracked back into history. And what they found is that it can’t be found. Perhaps it came from old scientists and psychologists who knew parts of the brain but told others that they didn’t know the other parts, and that got translated as ‘I know some of it and that is the only part we use’. Or perhaps it came from Albert Einstein. One large theory is that it came from an American psychologist named William Jones in the late 19th century who wrote that ‘humans use 10% of their capacity’ and it got interpreted and spread as ‘humans only use 10% of their brain’.

Ok, so now we know the myth, know why it’s false, and maybe have an idea on who made it. Now why do we still have it? There is so much information saying that it is false! In my opinion, I believe that we might still have this myth because it inspires people. If we only use 10% of our brain now, what about the future? If we work hard, is it possible to unlock more brain power so we can be better, stronger, and smarter? Maybe we still have it because of the fantasy of it that says if we unlock more, we are closer to superpowers—as the movie Lucy took inspiration from.

Bellow is a trailer for the movie Lucy (2014) if you are interested in seeing it.

Sources:

  • https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-we-really-use-only-10/
  • https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/tenper.html
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Vu081NOorA&t=5s

3 thoughts on “The Movie Lucy says that we only use 10% of our brains?

  1. alee9

    I have always found this to be a ridiculous misconception; it’s bizarre to me that as many people as believe it can simply hear that people only use 10% of their brains and not feel the need to investigate any further. Perhaps it’s an effect of having the myth repeated so frequently, since I’ve certainly seen people sharing it on social media, but it does make me wonder how these ideas persist despite attempted corrections by reliable sources like the article you cited.

  2. rachelg

    This is a very interesting topic. I agree that it is completely ridiculous that people still believe this is true. Unfortunately, I have heard people who know about brain structure and function of lobes talk about this! The logic does not track. I have to say I am very disappointed that there is no clear source for the myth but I am so glad you provided the information about possible sources. I was so curious as it makes so little sense. This was very well written–you gave good background for both modern beliefs and the history and I liked that you added a hypothesis about why people would still choose to believe this. Well done!

  3. psychicdro34

    I knew it! I got into a recent debate with my uncle about the claim that we only use 10% of our brain. I find it absurd this claim since there is evidence that we use 100% of our brain. I have noticed that some people, such as my uncle, support this claim as a way that the brain does not use 100% of the energy that it receives although we use all of the parts of the brain. The brain itself uses 20% of the energy that we receive because of how active it is. If we use 100% of the energy that we intake, we all be basically dead because other parts of our body also need energy! Maybe this fact could be another reason why people still believe that we only use 10% of our brain? This is also a great example of how the media could misinform the public if they don’t fully understand the results of the research.

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