The Echoes of the Mind (16-3) Roger Sperry

Roger Sperry

In the mid-1950s American neuropsychologist Roger Sperry addressed a classic question of psychology: is the ultimate driver of behavior innate nature or nurture? Experimentation on animals led him to the conclusion that “no adaptive functioning of the nervous system took place.” On Sperry’s neurological ledger nature won.

Hemispheric specialization is at the heart of neuropsychology. ~ Roger Sperry

Sperry then took up studying brain hemispheric function. Following in the footsteps of Broca (in more ways than one), Sperry insisted that the left-brain or right-brain dominated individuals, and this orientation could be revealed through testing. This and other of Sperry’s speculations concerning hemispheric specificity far exceeded his fact base. Yet his spurious surmises were applauded, including a Nobel Prize (1981).

Sperry had a lifelong interest in the mind-body problem and how it relates to human values. A devout matterist, Sperry believed that consciousness causally emerges from the brain.

One of the more important indirect results of the split-brain work is a revised concept of the nature of consciousness and its fundamental relation to brain processing. The key development is a switch from prior non-causal, parallelist views to a new causal, or “interactionist” interpretation that ascribes to inner experience an integral causal control role in brain function and behavior. In effect, without resorting to dualism, the mental forces of the conscious mind are restored to the brain of objective science from which they had long been excluded on materialist-behaviorist principles. ~ Roger Sperry, in his 1982 Nobel address