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.

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