Top Brain, Bottom Brain: Surprising Insights into How You Think [NOOK Book]


One of the world’s leading neuroscientists teams up with an accomplished writer to debunk the popular left-brain/right-brain theory and offer an exciting new way of thinking about our minds. The second edition, with expanded practical applications, highlights how readers can harness the theory to succeed in their own lives.

For the past fifty years, popular culture has led us to believe in the left-brain vs. right-brain theory of personality ...
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Top Brain, Bottom Brain: Surprising Insights into How You Think

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One of the world’s leading neuroscientists teams up with an accomplished writer to debunk the popular left-brain/right-brain theory and offer an exciting new way of thinking about our minds. The second edition, with expanded practical applications, highlights how readers can harness the theory to succeed in their own lives.

For the past fifty years, popular culture has led us to believe in the left-brain vs. right-brain theory of personality types. Right-brain people, we’ve been told, are artistic, intuitive, and thoughtful, while left-brain people tend to be more analytical, logical, and objective. It would be an illuminating theory if it did not have one major drawback: It is simply not supported by science.

Dr. Stephen M. Kosslyn, who Steven Pinker calls “one of the world’s great cognitive neuroscientists,” explains with cowriter G. Wayne Miller an exciting new theory of the brain. Presenting extensive research in an inviting and accessible way, Kosslyn and Miller describe how the human brain uses patterns of thought that can be identified and understood through four modes of thinking: Mover, Perceiver, Stimulator, and Adaptor. These ways of thinking and behaving shape your personality, and with the scientifically developed test provided in the book, you’ll quickly be able to determine which mode best defines your own usual style. Once you’ve identified your usual mode of thought, the practical applications are limitless, from how you work with others when you conduct business, to your personal relationships, to your voyage of self-discovery.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

For decades, pop psychologists have asked the question, "Are you a left brain or right brain person?"

In Top Brain, Bottom Brain, Stanford cognitive neuroscientist Stephen Kosslyn shakes up our notions about mental processes by debunking some of the widely-held myths behind artistic and analytical personality types. In their place, he identifies four information processing styles (Mover, Adaptor, Stimulator, and Perceiver) and explains how each affects our personal and professional relationships. Exciting new cutting-edge findings about how our brains really work that have daily, real-world implications.

Library Journal
Right brainers are presumably intuitive and left brainers analytical, but Kosslyn says there's no scientific proof. Director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, he instead argues that the brain operates according to patterns best described as mover, adaptor, stimulator, and perceiver. What's your pattern? Take the test.
Publishers Weekly
The idea that the brain is divided between its two halves, the analytical left and more creative right, seems established as scientific fact. However, Kosslyn, with co-writer Miller, seeks to shift the focus instead towards a top/bottom approach. Much of the author’s approach does not propose a discovery of new information but instead a reorganization of the brain’s already proven systems. A good part of the book is spent rehashing, and in some cases reinterpreting, previous groundbreaking studies—for example, the famous case of Phineas Gage, who’s left frontal lobe was destroyed when an iron rod was driven through his skull—in light of their new model. The authors organize their framework through four cognitive styles: mover, adapter, stimulator, and perceiver. Here the book’s argument shifts from science to social comparison, as each style is demonstrated through celebrity examples, from Stephen Colbert to Michael Bloomberg to Emily Dickinson. At times the foundation of the top-bottom schema seems more semantic than scientific; in fact, the authors confess this, to some extent, when they note that their theories have not yet been tested. Of course, it could be argued that much of science rests on semantics—in which case, this study is an invigorating thought-experiment on reassembling the brain’s dynamic parts. (Nov).
Robert M. Sapolsky
"Stephen Kosslyn has long been one of the world’s leading cognitive psychologists. In his new book, along with Wayne Miller, he proposes a novel synthesis for thinking about the modes of cognition and the neurobiology that underlies it. This is an extremely stimulating book and a wonderfully readable one as well, even containing useful information for how each of us can make sense of our own ways of thinking.”
Daniel Gilbert
"An exciting new way to think about our brains, and ourselves. Original, insightful, and a sweet read to boot."
Jerome Kagan
"Kosslyn and Miller have written a lively, informative, and easily assimilated summary of several important principles of brain function for the general reader who does not have the time or background to follow the complexities of neuroscience research but would like a scaffolding on which to place the new facts that dominate each day's headlines."
Howard Gardner
“A bold new theory, with intriguing practical implications, formulated by one of America’s most original psychologists.”
Steven Pinker
"Kosslyn is one of the world’s great cognitive neuroscientists of the late 20th and early 21st century."
Kirkus Reviews
A debunking of the popular treatments of "the alleged great [vertical] divide between the 'analytical/logical' left and 'artistic/intuitive' right halves of the human brain." With the assistance of novelist and Providence Journal staff writer Miller (Summer Place, 2013, etc.), Kosslyn (Behavioral Sciences/Stanford Univ.; Clear and to the Point: 8 Psychological Principles for Compelling PowerPoint Presentations, 2008, etc.) focuses on how the cerebral cortex is organized laterally to process information. The author first looks at a 1982 study, using rhesus monkeys, which revealed how their brains utilized separate areas when they perceived the sizes and locations of objects. Trained to identify objects in order to receive rewards, their abilities were impaired differently when different areas of their brains were surgically removed. The removal of a lower section prevented them from recognizing shapes. When a top portion was taken out, they could no longer recognize positions. Kosslyn wondered about whether this top-bottom difference in the perceptual apparatus also occurred in humans. Subsequent studies by him and his colleagues showed that brain damage to stroke victims affected their perceptual abilities in a similar fashion. With the development of neuroimaging, researchers discovered that a similar top-bottom division in brain activation occurs in areas of the cortex that are involved when normal subjects visualize solutions to cognitive problems. Kosslyn takes this a step further with a schematic characterization that correlates four different cognitive modes based on "the degree to which a person relies on the top- and bottom-brain systems" when planning or solving problems and modes of social interaction. He gives the example of successful CEOs (exemplified by Michael Bloomberg) who typically show both top and bottom brain activation and are "most comfortable in positions that allow them to plan, act, and see the consequences of their actions," compared to more impulsive individuals such as Sarah Palin, to whom he ascribes high top-brain but low bottom-brain activity. These people generate creative ideas but are poor at anticipating consequences. Suggestive but not entirely convincing. A modest addition to the popular psychology/self-help shelf.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451645125
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 11/5/2013
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 256,585
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Stephen M. Kosslyn, PhD, is founding dean of the Minerva Schools at the Keck Graduate Institute. He previously served as director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and as the John Lindsley Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, where he also served as chair of the Department of Psychology and dean of Social Science. Stephen has been recognized by election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, three honorary doctorates, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the National Academy of Sciences Award for Initiatives in Research.
G. Wayne Miller is a staff writer at The Providence Journal, a documentary filmmaker, and the author of seven books of nonfiction, three novels, and three short story collections. He is also director and cofounder of the Story in the Public Square program at Salve Regina University’s Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy in Newport, RI. Find him at or on Twitter @GWayneMiller.
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