Have you ever heard the statement that humans only use 10% of their brains? This is a widespread misconception that has been circulating for decades. Many people believe that if we can unlock the unused 90% of our brains, we can achieve extraordinary abilities and transcend the limits of human potential. But this notion is entirely false.

The Origin of the 10% Myth

The 10% myth has been around since the early part of the twentieth century. William James, a psychologist and philosopher, remarked in his book The Energies of Men, that the average person lives only a small part of their potential and that they could actually use more of it. This statement, taken out of context, gave rise to the 10% myth.

Another possible origin of the myth comes from the early days of neuroimaging. Scientists studying brains could only measure the activity of neurons on the surface of the brain, which makes up approximately 10% of the brain. This measurement of surface activity, combined with William James’s philosophy, made people believe that we were only using a small portion of our brain.

There is no scientific evidence that supports the 10% myth. It is merely a misinterpretation or misunderstanding of what it means to use our entire brains.

brain function
Understanding the reality of brain activity
brain myth
The truth behind the 10% brain myth

The Truth About Brain Usage

Studies using modern neuroimaging technology, such as PET scans and fMRI, have shown that our brains are active throughout the day, even when we are sleeping. Each part of the brain has a specific role to play, and every area is used, although usage may vary depending on the activity we are engaged in.

Our brains are incredibly complex and sophisticated organs. Each area of the brain plays a critical role in various functions, such as movement, thinking, learning, memory, and emotions. The 10% myth suggests that we can increase our brain capacity or unlock hidden, undiscovered parts of our brains. However, there is no scientific support for this claim.

Debunking the Myth

Despite the lack of evidence of the 10% myth, it continues to persist. This is partly due to Hollywood’s portrayal of the myth in movies like Lucy, Limitless, and Phenomenon. These films suggest that if humans could only access more of their brains, they could achieve superhuman abilities and transcend the limits of their potential.

The misconception is also perpetuated by advertisers who sell programs or products that claim to help people unlock the potential of their brains. These include brain-training games, supplements, and special exercises that claim to improve cognition and memory. However, none of these products have scientific backing and won’t provide any significant improvement in mental capacity.

The Reality of Brain Function

The brain is an organ that works continuously. Every part of the brain is active and connected to other parts. The brain is responsible for coordinating our movements, thoughts, emotions, and behavior. It is the most complex organ in the body, and we are still discovering new things about it regularly.

Your brain has nearly 100 billion neurons, and each can connect to thousands of other cells. This complexity allows the brain to perform its many functions, including language, perception, memory, and consciousness. Your brain never rests; it is always active, even when you are sleeping.


The 10% myth about brain usage is entirely false. Our brains are continuously active and connected, and each area has a specific role to play. Although we may not be able to unlock hidden, undiscovered parts of our brain and transform ourselves into superhumans, we can improve our cognitive function through healthy behaviors such as sleep, exercise, and healthy eating habits.

Further Reading

National Geographic’s The Brain: Our Universe Within


By Peter

4 thoughts on “The Misconception of the 10% Brain Myth”
  1. Thank you for sharing this interesting topic about the 10% myth. Although it has been debunked, some people still believe it. It is fascinating to know that our brains are much more complex and active than we previously thought. I wonder, what other common misconceptions about the brain exist in popular culture?

    1. Thank you for your comment. Yes, there are many common misconceptions about the brain that exist in popular culture. One example is the idea that left-brained people are more logical and analytical while right-brained people are more creative and artistic. In reality, both sides of the brain work together and are involved in all tasks to some extent.

  2. It would be helpful to include more information on the potential risks and side effects of brain-training games and supplements that claim to unlock the unused 90% of our brains.

    1. Thank you for your suggestion. The potential risks and side effects of brain-training games and supplements are significant topics, and it’s essential to provide readers with accurate information. I will look into adding more information in my future articles on this topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *