People who become Scientologists are impressionable people

Myth of 10% use of the brain

The origins are put in the mouths of different people, often for example the physicist Albert Einstein, who was neither a doctor nor a biologist. A quote attributed to Einstein also encourages the assumption that he has already made fun of the myth of the underemployed brain: "Most people only use five to six percent of their brain capacity. I use seven percent!"

In 1890, 120 years ago, the American psychologist William James formulated (1908: We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources) and Boris Sidis a hypothesis of "reserve energy". According to this hypothesis, by influencing child development, it is possible to increase the IQ value in later adults to 250 to 300. This was taken up again in 1936 by the author Lowell Thomas, who formulated a personal view that the average person uses only ten percent of his brain power.

Towards the end of the 19th century (compared to today) only about ten percent of the brain substance was actually assigned to one or more functions, which may have contributed to the myth of that time.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the French neurophysiologist Marie-Jean-Pierre Flourens provided presumptive physiological evidence when he discovered that large parts of the brains could be removed from birds and frogs, which were then still capable of basic behavior (eating and drinking) . However, the clear results of these experiments cannot be transferred to humans, as the methodology was relatively strange and the brain structure of the test animals can only be compared to that of humans to a limited extent.[4][5]

For a long time it was assumed that only about 10% of all cells found in the brain are neurons, the other cells are collectively referred to as glial cells. This observation may also have led to the myth (as a popular distinction between "gray" and "non-gray" substance). The numerical ratio of neurons to the total number of cells in the brain is of course meaningless in connection with the myth discussed here, even if some glial cells have a proven auxiliary function. The well-known neuroanatomist Santiago Ramón y Cajal established the numerical ratio between neurons and non-neurons (1: 9). A ratio of neuron cells to glial cells of around 1: 1 is now considered more realistic.[6]


  • Barry L. Beyerstein, Whence Cometh: the Myth that We Only Use 10% of our Brains?. Sergio Della Sala. Mind Myths: Exploring Popular Assumptions About the Mind and Brain. Wiley Publishing House. Pp. 3-24
  • Berit Uhlmann: How much brain does a person need?, Süddeutsche Zeitung, August 11, 2008. Full text

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