How the Brain Creates Personality: A New Theory

from The Atlantic

It is possible to examine any object—including a brain—at different levels. Take the example of a building. If we want to know whether the house will have enough space for a family of five, we want to focus on the architectural level; if we want to know how easily it could catch fire, we want to focus on the materials level; and if we want to engineer a product for a brick manufacturer, we focus on molecular structure.

Similarly, if we want to know how the brain gives rise to thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, we want to focus on the bigger picture of how its structure allows it to store and process information—the architecture, as it were. To understand the brain at this level, we don’t have to know everything about the individual connections among brain cells or about any other biochemical process. We use a rela­tively high level of analysis, akin to architecture in buildings, to characterize relatively large parts of the brain.

More here.

11 Responses to How the Brain Creates Personality: A New Theory

  1. Thomas Millet November 13, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    It’s fascinating how the different parts of the brain work in unison to formulate our movements, thoughts, personalities, goals, emotions, and how the parts work together in calculating, storing and combining more things than we can consciously even imagine. Whenever I read about the functions of the brain, I think how it can impact my everyday life. I would probably classify myself most often working in adaptor mode, and I just confirmed this by taking their test, but unfortunately, the article doesn’t go into detail about how our tendencies are formed; is it genetic or does it form in your adolescence; can it change over time; say if you don’t usually plan ahead but realize this as a personality flaw and make steps to improve, such as creating planners and consciously planning more diligently, are you actually rewiring your brain, in a sense? I suppose you are. But does this really mean anything?
    After reading some of the commenters on this article, it’s true that this article doesn’t really explain personalities, which makes the title quite misleading. This simplifies the brain in an incredibly general fashion, and is somewhat interesting, but overall not very useful. Much more in-depth, useful information about how the brain functions is already known and practiced. For example, how the brain works and functions can help doctors, as well as patients, to recognize brain injuries or even locate brain tumors. Much more specific detail is known than that a patient may have a problem with the bottom section of their brain if a person is having a hard time recognizing shapes, like in the monkey study mentioned in the article.
    Although the “personality” dissecting does boil down to little more than a horoscope reading, the snippet of science in the article is interesting.

  2. Samantha LaBruno November 14, 2013 at 2:17 am #

    This article is very interesting to me because it goes against most things I have learned about personality formation in the past. Instead of thinking of humans as using the right brain and left brain together to make decisions, this article talks about the Theory of Cognitive Modes. This theory says that people utilize the top brain and bottom brain to make decisions. The top brain formulates and executes plans, while the bottom part of the brain classifies and interprets information about the world. Personalities are then formed by how individuals utilize each part. Mover Mode, Adaptor Mode, Perceiver Mode, and Stimulator Mode are the four different modes explained by the Theory of Cognitive Modes.
    This article is very interesting in how it claims personalities are formed based on these four modes. I believe this theory is an accurate way of determining how people create their own unique personalities. I took the quiz that was linked in the article to find out which mode I tend to think in. The results showed that I have a tendency to rely on the top brain, and not to rely on the bottom, called the “Stimulator Mode.” The quiz results said, “you tend to make and act on plans, but do not always register consequences and adjust plans accordingly, but are particularly context dependent.” In the article, it reads that a person who thinks in Stimulator Mode may be creative and original, but their actions can be disruptive and they may not adjust their behavior appropriately. Based on the descriptions in the article about the four different modes, I feel as though I relate the most to the Stimulator Mode, so it is interesting to me that the quiz results showed I tend to think in Stimulator Mode. The description of this mode is fairly accurate to my personality. I plan things out and I act on these plans, but I may not always think about the consequences before I behave. I often act too quickly before thinking about what may happen.
    The Theory that this article talks about seems very logical to me, and I believe researchers, experts, and scientists should look more into the Theory of Cognitive Modes when determining people’s personalities.

  3. Elizabeth Cicalese November 14, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    There are three main points to explain how the brain creates personality. First, it depends on the top and bottom part of the brain. “The top brain formulates and executes plans (which often involve deciding where to move objects or how to move the body in space), whereas the bottom brain classifies and interprets incoming information about the world.” However, the two parts work together to form ideas. Next, people rely on two brain systems for functions which depend of the situation at hand. “Some people tend to rely heavily on both brain systems, some rely heavily on the bottom brain system but not the top, some rely heavily on the top but not the bottom, and some don’t rely heavily on either system.” Finally, there are four basic cognitive modes: mover, perceiver, stimulator and adaptor. “[Modes are] general ways of thinking that underlie how a person approaches the world and interacts with other people. According to the Theory of Cognitive Modes, each of us has a particular dominant cognitive mode, which affects how we respond to situations we encounter and how we relate to others.” The mover mode works with the top and bottom brain; the perceiver works with the bottom brain; the stimulator works with the top brains; and he adaptor works with neither top nor bottom brain.

    This model seems accurate in determining personalities. Blog mates wrote explaining that their mode was true for their personality. As I read that a perceiver “do not often initiate detailed or complex plans” I agree that I am one to sit back and wait for others to react before I give an opinion.

  4. Stefanie Swerdlin November 14, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

    This article is very interesting. The way they breakdown the different parts of the brain and analyze how the top and bottom part of the brain work together is different from what I’m used to learning. In this article it groups the occipital lobe and temporal lobe as the bottom section and the parietal and most of the frontal lobe create the top. By separating the brain into top and bottom, studies can show how the temporal lobe of the bottom brain is used for visual recognition whereas the parietal lobe, located in the top, is used to register spatial relations. Both the top and bottom sections of the brain have been viewed as having specialized roles such as; memory, attention, decision-making, planning, and emotions. The bottom working with processing inputs from senses which helps to stimulate memories that are relevant to the subject. Yet the top of the brain is used to devise and carry out plans. The four distinct cognitive modes come from the top-brain and bottom-brain, the mover mode, perceiver mode, stimulator mode, and adaptor mode all of which are used for different functions but still work together. Its is crazy to think that our brain is always using it’s different sections that work together to process information, yet each part of the brain is used for a different type of processing. Our personalities are solely based on how well or how different our brain works in comparison to someone else’s brain. Though the article doesn’t exactly go into a detailed explanation of personalities, the information that is described in the article makes you think about how our brain works in a simplified way.

  5. Xinyue Fan November 14, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

    it is goes without saying that Different people have different personality.

    In my view, different personality is created before we born.

    Additionally, different situation they had been bring up will influenced.

    people who outgoing may be grow up in the open situation which they can talk to different people.

  6. alexandra Butzirus November 14, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

    It is very fascinating to think about how the brain works. I find it even more interesting that there is a new take on how to examine the brain and how it functions. It is very smart to look at the brain from a different angle and by looking at the brain as if it is architecture. However, I find this article’s title misleading because I assumed I would be reading about a new theory for how the brain creates personality.
    Previous commenters have said our personalities are created by how our brains connect with other people’s brains, and that the article gives a more simple look on the brain. I think is article makes the brain seem like an onion, like all you need to do to understand the brain is peel back each layer and examine what is inside.

  7. Matt Sinisgalli November 14, 2013 at 10:23 pm #

    It’s extremely interesting this article analyzes the way the brain functions. I had always wondered, how is our brain truly structured? Are there different sections of our brain that focuses on different things? This article helped discuss how our brain is able to formulate and executes plans as well as interpreting information. In the mix of different parts of our brain focusing on different things, it’s interesting how they’re able to work together to form ideas and thoughts. The interesting aspect is the correlation of your brain with personality. Basically, our personalities are developed by how our brains work with other people’s brain. To me, this concept seems strange; however, it’s cool to think about. I also found it interesting that there are different angles and structures of examining the brain. How will our brain be observed in the future?

  8. Alan Cid November 14, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    I love science. The thrill of discovery, especially regarding systems that we use everyday, is amazing. The brain named itself. I think it’s the only thing in the universe to do so other than a piece of code written to name itself. According to this article, though, what the brain used to know about itself may have been wrong. The old theory being left and right, logic and creativity, was nice and simple to grasp. It even led to some beautiful artworks. But this new theory is much more satisfying than the old one. In the old theory, the brain was either good or bad at logic or creativity. And based on your brain’s ability in either category, your overall talents were given in a single value.
    This new model contrasts the old by providing not only two new regions and purposes of function but four new “modes” that determine human course of action. We all operate in a base mode that is possibly different than the person next to us, but based on different activity or stimuli, the brain can enter the other modes. Obviously, some brains execute certain modes better than others, but the idea that all modes are achievable is new and pretty cool. With continuous study, more MRIs and whatnot, I hope this theory is provided with more supporting evidence. But I wont be upset if another theory comes along and debunks this one. Because, science!

  9. SJM February 3, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    I found this article very interesting. It gave me insight into how the top and bottom brain play specialized roles in memory, emotion and even decision making. The brain is truly amazing. After reading this article I feel I have a greater understanding of the brain and its functions. The top part of the brain formulates and executes plans. While the bottom part classifies and interprets incoming information about the world.
    The brain has four cognitive modes, the mover, perceiver, stimulator and the adaptor mode. I would classify myself under the perceiver mode. The article stated that when people think in the perceiver mode they interpret what they experience, put it in context and then try to understand the implications. This is true for myself because I always try to understand why and how things happen.

  10. David Lerman February 10, 2014 at 8:59 am #

    I found this article to be interesting and an insightful article to gain a better understanding of how the brain works. The original theory of how the brain functioned was trying to understand each part of the brain on an individual basis but the new theory proves the contrary. I like the analogy of the new theory relating to a bicycle where each parts has its own specific function that cannot be performed by another part. The study was used for this experiment for the new theory was interesting where the scientists trained two monkeys to perform two tasks and then the monkeys had parts of their brain’s (one different part removed from each monkey) removed. Then after, the monkeys were trained to perform the same two tasks but one of the monkeys was only able to perform one of the two tasks and the other monkey was able to only perform the tasks that the other monkey was not able to perform. This is consistent with the analogy with the bicycle where that one part of the bike has one specific task to the brain where each part has its own specific function.
    I think this new theory can make understanding the idea behind mental cognition on how the brain works into a better view on how the brain is now studied. With scientists not knowing much about the brain, this new theory I think can be significant on understanding the brain further into the future.

  11. Jackie H September 17, 2014 at 10:55 am #

    The human brain is one of the most fascinating things to study. There are so many components, interconnected sections, and abilities that the brain has. Humans have been studying the brain for years and there are still new things that people learn every day. Personality has been a common topic of discussion of what influences it. Whether that is its influences are genetic or environmental. Even within genetic influences there is no exact understanding of where personality comes from. This article states a new theory that personality and brain processing is affected by the division of top and bottom brain.
    This article brings up a good point that the brain is not just divided up into two sections, whether that is the left and right side or the top and bottom half. Each section of the brain has a certain function it performs but it constantly sending signals to the other parts of the brain. So whenever something happens it is actually using all the parts of your brain, not just that one specific area. I think that is something important for people to remember because humans do not only use that one section of the brain for that task. That is why when people say that humans only use certain about of their brain it does not make sense. Every part of your brain is interconnected and is in constant use taking in all the information and processing it. Every section and system in your body is always working together, that is how we stay alive. However the different parts are used differently in each person. All people use the same parts but some use areas more than others. Thus the end result is everyone sees and does things differently than the next person. This is a component that gives each of use a unique way to act and in result affects our personality.
    Within the article they state the four different types that people can be in relation to top and bottom brain. When I was reading the article I was able to think of the different people that I knew and what type I thought they were. I also was thinking about what type I was. Then in the article you could take what type of top/ bottom thinker was I quiz, take a test on our website (link below). I like that it tried to figure out what I was and from the answer I went and read more in depth of what it is supposed to mean if I am classified under that type (link below). After further reading and thinking I was wondering if there is any correlation between the top/ bottom parts of the brain in relation to the left and right side of the brain. For example if you are left side and top half brain, do you do planning in a more logical manner?

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