Monday, November 18, 2013

Stephen Kosslyn & G. Wayne Miller's "Top Brain, Bottom Brain"

Stephen M. Kosslyn was a cognitive neuroscientist and professor of psychology at Harvard University for over 30 years and now serves as the founding dean of the Minerva Schools at the Keck Graduate Institute. G. Wayne Miller is an author, filmmaker and Providence Journal Staff Writer.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Top Brain, Bottom Brain: Surprising Insights into How You Think, and reported the following:
On page 99 we examine a question readers may have as they learn about our new Theory of Cognitive Modes: What determines a person’s dominant cognitive mode? Is it genes or experience – nature or nurture – or a combination?

Some background: Our theory of how people prefer to interact with the world and with others is based on the anatomical division of the brain into its top and bottom parts. Why not left and right, which holds that individuals are either analytical/logical, or artistic/intuitive? Because that pop-culture story has no solid basis in science. In Top Brain, Bottom Brain, we debunk this myth as background introduction to our theory.

Our Theory of Cognitive Modes, based on decades of solid research that until now has remained largely inside scientific circles, states that the anatomical division of the brain into top and bottom parts provides a better foundation for understanding thought and behavior.

The top part is involved in setting up plans, controlling movements, registering changes in where objects are located in space, and detecting when expected events do not occur and updating plans accordingly. The bottom part is involved in classifying and interpreting what we perceive, and allows us to confer meaning on the world. We all use both parts of the brain, but we vary in the degree that we tend to rely on each of the two brain systems for functions that are optional -- are not dictated by the immediate situation.

Unlike left/right, we do not focus on one part or the other. Instead, we focus on how the two parts interact – the brain is a single, interacting system.

Some people tend to rely heavily (in optional ways) on both brain systems, some rely heavily on the bottom brain system but less so on the top, some rely heavily on the top but less so on the bottom, and some don’t rely heavily on either system.

Which leads to four possible Modes: Mover, Perceiver, Stimulator and Adaptor.

You can determine your own preferred mode with a simple test in the book, and also online at We believe that learning about your preferred mode can help you not only better understand yourself but also help you understand your relationships. So, does nature or nurture determine a person’s dominant mode? As you might imagine, the answer lies in a combination of both.
Visit the Top Brain, Bottom Brain website.

--Marshal Zeringue