Top Brain, Bottom Brain: Surprising Insights into How You Think

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In this groundbreaking contribution to the literature on human personality, a celebrated psychologist and an award-winning author offer a novel way to learn about how each of us thinks. For the past fifty years, popular culture has led us to believe in the left brain vs. right brain theory of personality types. It would be an illuminating theory if it did not have one major drawback: It is simply not supported by science. In contrast, the Top Brain, Bottom Brain theory is based on solid research that has stayed ...

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Top Brain, Bottom Brain: Surprising Insights into How You Think

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In this groundbreaking contribution to the literature on human personality, a celebrated psychologist and an award-winning author offer a novel way to learn about how each of us thinks. For the past fifty years, popular culture has led us to believe in the left brain vs. right brain theory of personality types. It would be an illuminating theory if it did not have one major drawback: It is simply not supported by science. In contrast, the Top Brain, Bottom Brain theory is based on solid research that has stayed within the confines of labs all over the world—until now.

With cowriter G. Wayne Miller, Stephen M. Kosslyn, PhD, a leader in the field of cognitive neuroscience, explains this exciting new theory for the first time. Kosslyn and Miller describe how the top and bottom parts of the brain work together, summarizing extensive research with ease and accessibility. In doing so, they introduce us to four modes of thought: Mover, Perceiver, Stimulator, and Adaptor.

These ways of thinking and behaving shape your personality, and with the scientifically developed test provided in the audiobook, you’ll quickly be able to determine which mode best defines your dominant way of thinking. Once you’ve identified your dominant cognitive mode, you can reflect on the many possible practical applications from the way you conduct business to your relationships to your voyage of personal 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.

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).
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."
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.”
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.
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: 9781480590342
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 3/4/2014
  • Format: MP3 on CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 5.37 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

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. Visit him at

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