Back to SherlockPeoria front page

The View from the East End (88)

By Inspector Hopkins

July 27, 2008

What about Watson?  (part 3)

 by Inspector Hopkins

Some time ago, I took a test on AOL concerning “left-brained” vs “right-brained” people and I confirmed what I always thought about myself: it turns out that I am an extremely “left-brained” man!  Then I got to thinking about Dr. Watson, and considered what his mental processes were like.

Left- vs Right-Brained

What does this mean?  Well, the theory goes that if the right side of your brain is the dominant half, then you are very creative and are successful in fields such as art, music and literature. On the other hand, if the left side of your brain dominates, then you are very analytical, and prefer science, mathematics, engineering, etc.

When I took the test, I scored something like 90% left-brained.

This confirms that, in my case, I might learn to play some chords or a musical passage on a guitar for example, but would have great difficulty in creating an original piece of music. And, if asked, I could probably draw a pretty decent picture of a horse, or a tractor, or even an aircraft carrier.

 But  . . . if you asked me to draw a picture of how something feels  . . . what “happiness” looks like, or what colour “tragedy” is . . . well, I would be stymied.

Watson the Reporter

In recording their adventures, Watson stuck to accurately reporting the facts for each case, and he never seemed to waver from that.  Recall that after a client presented his or her case and had left 221B, Holmes frequently asked, “Well Watson, what do you make of that?”   Watson never seemed to be able to pick up the thread of what Holmes was thinking, and replied that he was baffled, etc.

It appears that good old Watson was analytical, dependable, reliable, factual, punctual, and loyal. But yet he never seemed to take the lead on a scent that Holmes was following.  Although he was able to grasp the facts and particulars of a case, he was unable to spot the subtleties that Holmes could. (Of course, we know that’s what made him the world’s greatest consulting detective and that was his special gift, but that’s another story).

Why was this so?

As a surgeon, Watson was probably extremely left-brained, rigidly sticking to established procedures, following his medical training, and staying within the structural guidelines of his profession. He was able to examine patients, diagnose their medical problems, and prescribe appropriate treatment plans. And throughout his medical career, I get the feeling that he was able to stay emotionally detached from his patients and to remain quite objective, more hallmarks of the left-brained person.

But then again, no one is completely left or right-brained, and is in fact some combination of the two.

Fortunately for us Sherlockians, Watson had enough right-brained skill to write up some pretty cracking good stories! So he did have some creativity lurking under the surface, and that’s a good thing for all of us.

After all, how interesting would the Canon be if it read like a medical textbook?  ;-)

Until next time, I am indeed,

Yours faithfully,