[ lat-er-uh-luh-zey-shuhn ]


  1. functional specialization of the brain, with some skills, as language, occurring primarily in the left hemisphere and others, as the perception of visual and spatial relationships, occurring primarily in the right hemisphere.

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Word History and Origins

Origin of lateralization1

First recorded in 1885–90; lateral + -ization


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More About Lateralization

What is lateralization?

Lateralization describes the concept that some brain functions are specialized to either the right or left side of the human brain.

In neuroscience and psychology, lateralization states that functions of the brain are lateralized, or split, and that certain functions are conducted on either the left or right side of the brain. 

Functions related to complex ideas, speech, creativity, artistic talent, and expression are said to reside in the right side of the brain. Someone who shows a lot of skill with one or more of these creative functions might be described as right-brained. Functions related to calculation, rationalized thinking, analysis, logic, and quantitative reasoning are located in the left side of the brain. Someone who shows a lot of skill with one or more of these analytical functions might be described as left-brained

However, being skilled in one type of function or another doesn’t absolutely mean your brain is stronger on one side or another. There is research that both proves and disproves the concept of lateralization. You can be skilled in both creative and analytic functions, not having one or the other dominate.

Example: In neurology, we learned that lateralization doesn’t mean that a person’s brain functions are universally stronger on one side of the brain than on the other.

Where does lateralization come from?

The first records of the term lateralization come from around the 1880s. It combines the term lateral, meaning “of or relating to the side,” the suffix -ize, which creates verbs with the meaning “to render or make,” and the suffix -ation, which is used to form nouns. These parts combine to effectively mean “the act of rendering something to one side.”

Did you know ... ?

What are some words that share a root or word element with lateralization

What are some words that often get used in discussing lateralization?

How is lateralization used in real life?

Lateralization is largely used in scientific conversations about the abilities and functions of the human brain.


Try using lateralization!

True or False?

Lateralization theorizes that brain functions are generalized throughout your brain.




lateralitylateral line