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BRAIN SYSTEMS

INTRODUCTION TO
BRAIN SYSTEMS

We use a neuroscience model called brain systems to help us understand communication types and behaviours. In this model we refer to 4 core behavioural modes our brains use every day - Instinctive, Emotional, Reflective and Rational.

The brain system we use in a given moment depends on stimulus. Thankfully we don't all use the same brain system in the same situation... it would be pretty boring if we were the same! Each system is linked to a couple of neuroscience themes too!
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WHY WE LOOK AT BRAIN SYSTEMS

Looking at brain systems across an organisation helps to give a more holistic picture of their cultural health.

Within our model the Instinctive and Emotional systems are linked to the heart and therefore happiness. While Reflective and Rational systems are associated with the brain and impact engagement.

Let's take a closer look at the 4 brain systems...

BRAIN SYSTEM 1INSTINCTIVE

The instinctive brain system looks after the basic functioning of the body and is driven by a mixture of our genetic programming and memorised experiences.

It is located just above the brain stem and in evolutionary terms is the oldest part of our brain. It is the home of our instincts to survive and thrive at work.

BRAIN SYSTEM 2EMOTIONAL

The emotional brain system is designed to give us the means to cooperate socially.

It is located within the Limbic System, which sits in the middle of the brain. Its purpose is social bonding and connection. It’s significantly impacted by our relationships with colleagues and how we feel about ourselves at work.

BRAIN SYSTEM 3REFLECTIVE

The reflective brain system refers to our ability to mentally or emotionally ‘step back’ to consider our responses.

This system is centred in the Prefrontal Cortex. It is associated with higher level thinking such as concepts and imagination and is also the home of our self-awareness.

BRAIN SYSTEM 4RATIONAL

The rational brain system is thought of as the ‘thinking brain’, alongside the reflective system. It is located in the Neo-Cortex which sits across the top and sides of the brain.

Thinking enables us to consider our options and to undertake complex tasks such as planning. Emotions and instincts demand instant reaction, but our thoughts are processed at slower speeds to allow us to gather and interpret more information.

Clive Hyland, Head of Neuroscience at The Happiness Index

CLIVE HYLAND

Head of Neuroscience

The Happiness Index

These brain systems will show up very differently in our types of behaviour, helping us to understand the way that we process information ourselves, and which parts of the brain we’ve learned to activate the most during our lives. We’re all a unique blend and we can look back to our lives and understand how those influences on our brain have created the communication style that we have.

RELATED RESOURCES

The four brain systems