These days one often encounters the opinion that the human brain supposedly works at only 10% of its full capacity. Some popular movies are even based on this statement. Let's try to figure out if each of us can suddenly become ten times smarter, or is this a myth, and if so, where did it come from?
Assertions that the human brain allegedly works for only 10% began to appear for the first time at the beginning of the 20th century in various books about self-development, psychics and other things, which were far from scientific and commercial. From these materials it was implied that 90% (or so) of the brain's true potential was hidden and unused. These same sources also promised to offer some methods by which one could supposedly easily, effortlessly and quickly unlock this potential and achieve superpowers.
At this point it is already absolutely obvious that this was an elementary play on human weaknesses and the desire for easy success. None of the proposed methods for discovering additional abilities has obviously ever produced any results (otherwise this method would be used widely and everywhere today). All of these books and the ideas presented in them were quickly forgotten due to their utter inconsistency. However, there has always been a demand for such literature, and such books, offering more and more recipes for quick and easy success, have been and are being published to this day.
The authors of these books, journalists and scribblers still tried to make their unsubstantiated assertions more scientific and referred to the famous psychologist of the time, William James. Although he merely suggested that it was possible that we were simply not making full use of our potential. However, he did not make any numerical estimates. This incomplete use of the brain is not based on the fact that some of its potential is hidden and unavailable, but on human laziness and lack of motivation. This is exactly what the scientist implied.
Especially popular idea that the human brain allegedly works only 10% acquired after the publication of the book by Dale Carnegie, "How to win friends? In the preface to that book, journalist Lowell Thomas, not only heavily paraphrased and distorted James' words beyond recognition, but he himself came up with the exact percentage out of his head.
But where did this misconception come from, after all? Let's look into it:
First, just at the beginning of the 20th century, scientists discovered that the human brain is 90% glial cells, at first glance supposedly useless. At this point, it is now known that these cells are not useless at all, but act as sophisticated routers and provide communication between the neurons of the brain. Moreover, it was discovered that the more of these cells in the brain, the better it works and the smarter the person.
Secondly, then scientists realized that at different moments of time different parts of the brain are active, i.e. the whole brain really does not work at the same time. By the way, when the whole brain, i.e. all its parts, works at the same time, then the person has an epileptic seizure, it is known to happen, but it is unlikely to have superpowers.
However, after hearing about these scientific findings, journalists immediately twisted everything in their own way, so that it looked like a sensation. However, so far there is not a single really scientific study that claims that the brain works at some small percentage of its capacity.
The fact is that this question, "How much of the brain's capacity is working?" is not scientific at all. This question lies in the field of elementary logic, not biology. The answer is too simple and obvious for scientists to even bother with it. And the answer is this:
In each particular person, at the moment of maximum mental stress, the brain gives out all 100% of those opportunities that it is capable of at the moment.
At the same time, if a person sits idle, obviously the brain is not working at full capacity (although, as we know, the brain's work never stops completely, it always controls the work of all the organs, monitors many indicators and factors and is in constant readiness).
This does not mean that the brain cannot be developed, on the contrary, you can and should do it, and perhaps it can be developed even very strongly and many times, but for this you have to work hard. In this case, at each specific moment your brain will be able to give out all 100% of its capabilities at that moment.
An analogy can be made here with ordinary muscles. Suppose someone can lift a 100-kg barbell. Obviously, he doesn't always do it. Sometimes that person sits on the couch and uses zero percent of his muscles. In another situation, maybe the person only needs to lift 10 pounds, then he's using 10 percent of his capacity. But it might happen that the person will have to lift 100 kilograms, and then he will do it and use 100% of his abilities. And finally, this person can continue training and develop his muscles to such an extent that he will be able to lift 200 kilograms. But that will not mean that at that time, when he could only lift 100 kilograms, and lifted them, he used 50% of his muscles, then he used all 100% of his capacity at that time. The same is true of the brain, it's just that the numerical expression of his ability is more difficult to estimate.
Let us make a few more remarks about this question. The fact is that the mass of the brain averages only 2% of the body mass, but the brain consumes as much as 20% of the energy available to man. And if there is an energy deficit, this percentage is even higher, in such cases the brain takes all the available energy from the other organs. Thus, if it were not working at full capacity, nature itself in the course of evolution would get rid of these supposedly "extra" 90% of the brain and thus reduce the consumption of such valuable energy.
Let us also mention such a notion as neuroplasticity. The point is that if a certain part of the human brain is damaged, the rest of the brain takes over its functions, or at least tries to do so. The reverse is also true, if a certain part of the brain suddenly has no work to do (for example, a person has lost his vision, and the part of the brain responsible for processing these signals is no longer loaded with work), that part of the brain takes over and helps the rest of the brain (and in our example, other senses such as hearing, smelling, and so on are heightened). Thus, the brain always tries to load itself fully and not to stay idle, i.e. the brain is able and ready to work at 100%.
And yet the myth that the human brain allegedly does not work fully, believe about 65% of the population. But why? It's very simple. The myth that in every person there is an incredible potential, which can be revealed simply by "turning some secret switch", is very popular with most people. And various charlatans try to feed this myth in order to continue to successfully sell books and services or otherwise deceive people by promising them quick and easy unlocking of incredible superpowers. People really want to believe that, really, I'm about to read a secret recipe and without labor, effort and training become great and rich.
And we'll repeat once again, you can and should train your brain, you can increase its abilities, which at any given moment you will be able to use at 100% of the achieved level. But it takes long, painstaking and hard work, and that's the only way to do it.