Monday, December 30, 2013

Your brain explained

Click here for a good primer on how the brain works, and is affected by digital technology -- i.e., neuroplasticity at work. Told with clarity and humor by The Providence Journal, where Top Brain, Bottom Brain co-author G. Wayne Miller is a staff writer, this is a good companion to the Theory of Cognitive Modes.

And for a three-minute introduction to the theory, watch this video.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Use your brain to set your New Year's goals

Every New Year we traditionally reflect on where we are and where we’d like to be. As 2013 gives way to 2014, it may be useful to contemplate the words of the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu:“He who knows others is learned; He who knows himself is wise.”

Do you really know yourself? Are you open to a new way of understanding why you—and the people around you—think and behave as you do? Do you hope to succeed at work, start a new relationship or improve an existing one, or get in better overall shape?

Whatever your ambition for 2014, your journey will begin with your mind, those cognitive faculties that arise from your brain -- and the new Theory of Cognitive Modes, a scientifically-based new theory of personality, may be useful. Read New Year's resolution tips, take the test, and find practical year-long advice at the Simon & Schuster Tips on Life & Love blog.

-- For specific relationship insights from the Theory of Cognitive Modes, click here.

-- For specific work and business guidance, click here.

-- To delve deeper into the psychology and neuroscience behind the theory, read this.

-- The theory even has application for sports.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

`Two Science Headlines of 2013 that Everyone Should Know'

One was the discovery of astrophysical neutrinos, according to Chris Kukk, professor of political science at Western Connecticut State University, founding Director of the Center for Compassion, Creativity and Innovation, and TED Talk speaker.

The other was the science of Top Brain, Bottom Brain.

(For more 'Top' lists that Top Brain, Bottom Brain made, click here.)

On his blog, Dr. Kukk on Dec. 23, 2013, wrote:

"Two scientific discoveries this year literally and figuratively 'upend' the way we study our universe and our understanding of the brain..." First, neutrinos.

"The other 'upending' idea of 2013," Dr. Kukk writes, "has come from the field of neuropsychology and has turned our understanding of how the brain works from left/right to top-down. The popular notion that the brain is divided into left and right hemispheres has been debunked by Stephen M. Kosslyn and G. Wayne Miller in their new book Top Brain, Bottom Brain: Surprising Insights Into How You Think.

"Kosslyn and Miller clearly demonstrate that the near universal story about the left (analytical and logical) and right (artistic and intuitive) hemispheres of the brain is not based in science.  Rather, Kosslyn and Miller use decades of peer reviewed neuroscience research to show that the top and bottom parts of the brain work as a 'single interactive system.'

"They call their approach 'the theory of cognitive modes' and it demonstrates that there is no 'cerebral tug of war' between one-side of the brain and the other.  While the “top brain” consists of the entire parietal lobe and the top portion of the frontal lobe, the 'bottom brain' is made up of the remainder of the frontal lobe and all of the occipital and temporal lobes.  In sum, the traditional paradigm of the way we understood how the brain learns has been replaced by an interdependent model of cognition that is more scientifically robust. Our educational system should be a place where such scientific research has an immediate societal effect. If we have a better understanding of how the brain learns, we can construct more efficient and effective curricula for our children.

"The 28 neutrinos discovery and the development of the top-bottom brain map help us to better understand our world from the outside in and from the inside out.  Both discoveries provide us with 'more whys' and help us on our quest to be 'more wise.' ”

Chris Kukk

Monday, December 23, 2013

"A beguiling sweep of brain science... a fun excursion through the mind"

So writes critic Mandy Twaddell in the Dec. 22, 2013, Providence Sunday Journal.

"This book brings us up to date on the science of the human brain," Twaddell begins.

She ends her review by writing: "This book offers a beguiling sweep of brain science for those, like this reviewer, who approach the field with a tabula rasa. It’s a fun excursion through the mind, shedding light on one’s own way of thinking. Perhaps our species needs these separate ways of seeing things to collectively grasp the complex world that we share."

Read the full review here.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Scientific American/FSG authors calls book one of two best of 2013

We were honored to learn that eminent psychologist John D. Mayer, a pioneer in personal and emotional intelligence, has named the book on of his two favorite science books of 2013.

NEW! (This is the third "Top" recognition we have received: the U.K.'s The Guardian named the book first pick of its Top Ten science/technology books for December 2013. On Dec. 23, Chris Kukk, Western Connecticut State University political science professor, founding Director of the Center for Compassion, Creativity and Innovation, and TED Talk speaker, called the Theory of Cognitive Modes one of 2013's top scientific discoveries.)

Writing on the Scientific American/Farrar, Straus & Giroux site, Dr. Mayer declares:

"Kosslyn is a world-class researcher in cognitive psychology and neuropsychology; Miller, a science journalist and author. Kosslyn and Miller describe a new insight emerging from contemporary brain research: that the upper reaches of the brain’s cerebral hemispheres think differently from their lower portions. Kosslyn and Miller argue that people express different thinking styles depending on which part of their brains they favor.

"Top-of-the-brain thinkers are more abstract pattern-perceivers and planners; bottom-brain thinkers deeply process individual instances; and some people use both (or neither). The style that works best for a person will depend on the individual’s context; Kosslyn & Miller’s bottom line is that it helps to know one’s own personal style (they provide a diagnostic test), and it often makes sense to work in teams with people who vary in the parts of the brain they use. 

"Throughout the book, they bolster their argument with evidence from key studies, meta-analyses of brain functioning, and a new scale of cognitive style. The writing is lively and accessible, and I was excited about the idea of using insights from brain science to identify new dimensions of our character."

Thanks, John, for the recognition!

John D. Mayer

John is author of the forthcoming Personal Intelligence: The Power of Personality and How It Shapes Our Lives.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The psychology & neuroscience of Top Brain, Bottom Brain

Behind the many practical applications for business, work, relationships and self-betterment stands the new Theory of Cognitive Modes. As a fresh and original contribution to science, it has been featured in a growing list of psychology and cognitive neuroscience publications, and on academic reading lists, along with many mainstream venues.

Top Brain, Bottom Brain has also been named to three "Top" lists, including Scientific American/FSG and The Guardian.

NEW! -- "Great book, great book," says Gary King, Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor at Harvard University, and Director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science.

A recent publication is a three-part series that began on Dec. 17, 2013, on the esteemed Brain Blogger site. Under the direction of physician-scientist Dr. Shaheen E. Lakhan, Brain Blogger is an official undertaking of the Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation, an international charity for the advancement of neurological and mental health patient welfare, education, and research.
-- Read Part One of the Brain Blogger series: Since Time Immemorial
-- Part Two: Left/Right? Wrong
-- Part Three: The Theory of Cognitive Modes

The  series was picked up by other publications, including ScienceSeeker,, newsfiber, regator and 9rules.

-- The theory also received attention on the Dallas, Texas, NPR show Think on Dec. 16, 2013, when Stephen Kosslyn discussed it and some practical applications for an hour.

Tania Lombrozo
-- Tania Lombrozo, associate professor of psychology at Berkeley, brought it into her discussion of hemispheric differences on 13.7 Cosmos & Culture, the NPR blog, on Dec. 2.

-- During November, a dialogue between the authors and the distinguished psychiatrist, doctor and former Oxford literary scholar Iain McGilchrist played out on Transition Consciousness, edited by Simon Robinson, co-author of Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter.

-- BrainSpeak Magazine published a story: Move Over Right and left Brain: It's About Top and Bottom Now!

-- The Center for Transformative Teaching & Learning at St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Potomac, Md., includes Top Brain, Bottom Brain as a resource book on "the Neurodevelopmental Demands of Teaching and Learning."

-- Josh Chen's Brain Talk video -- the theory in 0:27.

-- While not specifically a psychology publication, The Atlantic published a piece, How the Brain Creates Personality: A New Theory.

-- The theory as applied to the psychology of sports was the subject of an op-ed piece in the Nov. 16 edition of The Providence Sunday Journal.

-- Click here to read more articles about the theory and book in The Wall Street Journal, Time, The Guardian, Oprah magazine, and many other places.

-- And for a look at how the theory applies to business and work, read Business Brains.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

NPR Dallas: KERA radio's Think program talks with Stephen Kosslyn

We were delighted to have Stephen appear on Krys Boyd's popular Think program, which reaches the Dallas market during mid-day. Krys held Stephen over in order to spend a whole hour on Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, discussing the Theory of Cognitive Modes. Before the show, "Thoughts on Thought," Krys invited her audience to take the online test. It all made for great radio! Thanks, Krys.

Listen to the podcast here.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The theory in three minutes, 2 seconds

Watch a video of authors Stephen Kosslyn and Wayne Miller explaining the new Theory of Cognitive Modes and how it can be useful to you in relationships, work, and your everyday life. This will be 3:02 well-spent!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Holiday Survival Help: Use Your Brain

So how might the Theory of Cognitive Modes, explained in Top Brain, Bottom Brain, help you during the holidays?

First, identify your own habitual cognitive mode, and think about which mode best characterizes others who will be joining you this holiday season. A scientifically validated 20-question self-assessment test, which can be completed and automatically scored in just a few moments, is available at the official book site. It might be enlightening (and mutually enjoyable) for a group all to take the test. The test is useful as a spark for self-examination, and examination of others—and, as such, can lead to interesting insights.

Second, recognize that although it is difficult to change one’s dominant mode—that habitual way of thinking and behaving that generally characterizes an individual— it is possible to shift into another mode, based on circumstances. Having relevant knowledge is key. And merely being aware of the modes can also help: Not typically utilizing deeply part of the brain doesn’t mean that you cannot do so—it only means that you don’t habitually do so.

OK, now some practical suggestions for your best holiday gathering ever. Let’s say that Stimulator mode-inclined uncle won’t let up with those jokes. Funny at first, but when you’re into the third course and he’s still going… maybe not so funny.

Suggested solution: You steer the topic toward someone else at the table—perhaps a relative who seems to be acting in Adaptor mode, assisting with the meal but offering less to the conversation. Drawn out, that relative could not only contribute to the talk, but shift the dynamic of the gathering.

Read the entire "Finding Holiday Harmony and Avoiding Conflict" post on Simon & Schuster's Tips on Life & Love blog.

And for more relationship guidance from Top Brain, Bottom Brain, click here.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Foreign Interest

Starting before publication, the book has received notice from a variety of international publications and sites. Some of the art accompanying the stories has been great -- brain art rules! Here's a sampling of some the recent overseas appearances with the very creative illustrations:

-- Live University, a learning center in Catantia, Sicily, Italy, Dec. 2, 2013.

-- Folha de S.Paulo, a newspaper in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Nov. 29, 2013.

-- A Critica de Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil, Nov. 25, 2013.

-- Pijamasurf, a version of Reality Sandwich published in Mexico, Dec. 2, 2013.

-- Quotidiano Giovani, Rome, Italy.

-- "Brain Theory Turned on its Head," Korean Entertainment News.

Courtesy The Providence Journal

-- For a look at U.S. publications including Time, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal and Oprah that have featured or cited the book (and some earlier foreign interest) click here.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Relationships and the Theory of Cognitive Modes

As we explain in the book, our new theory defines four basic ways that people can think and behave: in Mover, Stimulator, Perceiver or Adaptor Mode. You can quickly identify your own dominant mode by taking a simple 20-question, automatically scored test. 

Identifying your mode can help you better understand how you and the people around you own behave and approach the world, whether on the job, at home, in social situations -- or in your romantic and intimate relationships. Whether you have been in a relationship for a long time, or are just starting -- or wondering if she or he is right for you before taking the next step -- we believe Top Brain, Bottom Brain can be useful to you.

Here is an excerpt from the book -- a good starting point for using the Theory of Cognitive Modes in your important relationships.

Thinking Twice
Stephen M. Kosslyn and G. Wayne Miller.

Ideally, you would have time to reflect on the perspectives presented in this book before beginning a new job or entering a new social or personal relationship. According to the theory (and we again remind you that it is a theory), someone who was prone to being in Stimulator Mode might want to pause to think carefully about marrying someone who also was prone to being in Stimulator Mode—such a union could easily produce a marriage rife with conflict. Two people who typically operate in Adaptor Mode might want to reflect on what a marriage would be like if much of the time “nothing is happening” or the situation is constantly careening or being buffeted by events. Imagine how things might be different for Nick and Erica, the characters we created for chapter 12, if Erica, like her husband, habitually thought and behaved in Adaptor Mode and not in her dominant Mover Mode; with the demands of running the household and managing the couple’s three young children, it might be chaotic.

Although two people who habitually operate in Perceiver Mode might have a low-stress relationship, achieving goals that require detailed or complex planning could prove challenging. Picture Hannah and Rick, the characters from chapter 10. If Rick habitually thought and behaved in Perceiver Mode, as Hannah does, the two of them would enjoy a comfortable life—but as they neared their sixties, would either of them have made the financial decisions necessary to ensure a comfortable retirement? The point is not that Hannah (or any librarian) is incapable of long-term financial decision making, only that this is not likely to be her natural inclination—but it is where Rick’s dominant cognitive mode advances the couple’s shared interests.

Similarly, the theory leads us to expect that if a person habitually operates in Perceiver Mode in the professional world, it might be most comfortable for him or her to work with people who often are in Perceiver or Adaptor modes. But, comfort aside, this often would probably be less than ideal. Arguably, most teams would benefit by having some members who are comfortable and adept in Mover Mode, others who are comfortable and adept in Adaptor Mode, and so on. For example, people who prefer to operate in Perceiver Mode would get a lot out of working with those who prefer Mover or Stimulator modes, and vice versa.

In order to change your dominant mode, you need to be highly motivated, have a lot of time, and stick to the effort—and even then, this change will probably affect your functioning only in a particular domain. Not everybody is so patient. In most cases, we suspect that you probably would be better off identifying your dominant cognitive mode and finding people who have dominant modes that complement your own. And remember that a person’s mode may be different in different circumstances (which draw on different sets of knowledge)—a person comfortable with Mover Mode at work may be most comfortable in Adaptor Mode at home, and a person who usually operates in Stimulator Mode with friends may slide into Perceiver Mode with a mate. Thus, if our theory is on the right track, be sure to spend time with a person in the appropriate circumstances if you are seeking compatibility. 

Some readers of this book will find themselves already in problematic situations. What then? The Theory of Cognitive Modes cannot provide definitive guidance, but knowing about the four modes can make you sensitive to certain potential problems before you become involved with someone. Moreover, the theory implies that you can become an expert on someone close to you. And learning to predict his or her likely reactions can help you operate in Perceiver and Mover modes, which can make a difficult situation manageable. If you don’t have the motivation or time to learn how to cope, seek a friend (or counselor) who can complement your strengths, filling in for what you cannot do easily. Here, again, would be the value of relying on an appropriate social prosthetic system.

Working well with others is arguably the most important thing most of us do. There are two clear keys to success: The first is to grow, by learning new strategies (ways to plan and behave, using the top-brain system) and learning new ways to “frame” a situation (ways to classify and interpret, using the bottom-brain system). The second is to change your circumstances, whether work, home, or social setting. In any given situation, you can use one of these two keys to open a new door.
From “Working With Others,” Chapter 14, Top Brain, Bottom Brain:Surprising Insights Into How You Think. Simon & Schuster, November 2013. ©Copyright 2013 Stephen M. Kosslyn.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Time, The Guardian, Oprah, The Atlantic, Wall St. Journal & many more feature Top/Bottom

The new Theory of Cognitive Modes, presented in Top Brain, Bottom Brain, continues to receive attention from many publications and media outlets representing many disciplines: psychology, of course, but also business, sports, science and relationships. And indeed, the book explores the theory as it can apply in all of these areas -- at work, home and in everyday life.

Many readers tell us they have benefited from identifying their own dominant cognitive mode -- Perceiver, Stimulator, Adaptor or Mover -- by taking the 20-question test, published in the book and available (with automatic scoring) online. 

Courtesy: Oprah magazine

Here are some of the places where the book has been featured or cited:

-- NPR's 13.7 Cosmos & Culture blog, Dec. 2, 2013.

-- The U.K.'s The Guardian named Top Brain, Bottom Brain first pick of its Top Ten science/technology books for December 2013.
-- On Friday, Nov. 29, Time posted an essay by Stephen and Wayne on its home page. Read the essay here.

-- Posting by Simon Robinson, a British writer and thinker living in Sao Paulo, Brazil; reaction by Iain McGilchrist, of London and the Isle of Skye; and our response regarding left brain/right brain to Simon and Iain, all on Transition Consciousness, Nov. 16 to Nov. 19, 2013.

-- Interview with Wayne on the Sean Moncrieff show, NewsTalk 106-108 FM, Dublin, Nov. 19, 2013.

 -- The Page 99 Test, U.S., Nov. 18, 2013.

-- Feature about Top Brain, Bottom Brain on Marshal Zeringue's Campaign for the American Story blog, U.S., Nov. 18, 2013.

-- An intriguing online lesson built around the book by Feride Hekimgil, a teacher at Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey, Nov. 16, 2013.

-- "How Brain Function Might Put Some Athletes Ahead of Others," Sports Section, Providence Sunday Journal, Nov. 16, 2013.

-- Medical Daily published a substantial piece on Nov. 14, 2013.

-- The Atlantic, Nov. 12, 2013.

-- Boston Research Group's BSG Team Ventures Leadership for Innovation Executive Selection, Nov. 12, 2013.

-- An essay on ReadWave, site based in London, Nov. 11, 2013.

-- Oprah magazine, November issue.

-- Op-ed piece, "Brain Myths, Brain Realities," in the Oct. 27 Providence Sunday Journal.

-- The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 19, 2013.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Time, feature Top Brain, Bottom Brain

Latest coverage from the book comes from Time, which featured the story on its home page, and, which pinged from the Time piece. These follow attention from The Wall Street Journal, Oprah, The Atlantic and other mainstream publications and broadcast outlets.

 Here's what had to say on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013:

"Your brain isn't lefty or righty, but probably top or bottom art
"If you're a sucker for those tests that tell you whether you're left-brained or right-brained, you've been using old brain. Scientists have long known that the popular theory of a logical side of the brain doing battle with the creative side is mostly bunk, myth-making hysteria from some 1970s lab research that even the author, Nobel laureate Roger Sperry, cautioned against. Halves of the brain, scientists agree, work together not in isolation. Now neuroscientist Stephen Kosslyn and author G. Wayne Miller suggest that top and bottom sections of the brain are a more pertinent split, an upper half that 'sets up plans and revises those plans when expected events do not occur; the bottom (that) classifies and interprets what we perceive.' But it's still more of a collaborative process, no matter what your left brain tells you." Read the piece.

On Friday, Nov. 29, Time posted an essay by Stephen and Wayne. Read the essay here.

Time illustration