Triune Brain
Triune Brain

Triune Brain

Quick Summary

Triune Brain is one of the models we talked about as a part of the Mental Model Summit #1 we held back when the coronavirus pandemic was in full swing.

Dr Paul MacLean, the author of the Triune Brain Theory, was a neuroscientist. He discovered that, basically, our brain is a three-nested organ containing:

  1. The ancient reptilian brain at the base of the skull can be thought of as the physical brain. It deals with adapting to the physical world (the senses, survival, procreation).
  2. The mammalian brain, or the emotional brain, allows us to bond with other mammals. We can attach to our mother, family, and siblings. We can also attach to our friends, communities and even to symbols and images that bind us to our culture.
  3. These are different realities though. The physical reality operates by a different set of rules than the emotional reality. The physical is a much more survival, scarcity, zero-sum kind of reality. The emotional and social realities are more about bonding, equality, and connection with others.

  4. Around these grew the human brain, or the conceptual brain — the neocortex. This is the dense surface of our brain that has neurons that allow us to abstract and do symbolic thinking, reflective thinking, language, and all kinds of visualization, scenarios, and hypothetical thinking.

This model can often help us move through the world. If, for example, I'm thinking about my habits, I first ask, what is a physical habit; then, what are emotional and social habits, then, what is a mental or thinking habit - this yields different insights and different answers.

If we think about learning, for example, we might ask: What is physical learning? What is body learning? What is emotional and social learning? What does it mean to have a relationship that learns? What is mental or cognitive or conceptual learning?

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Watch Class

Masterclass Part #1

Below is the recording of the entire Summit in two parts. The Triune Brain model is talked about in Part 1 at 51:37.

Masterclass Part #2

Other Resources


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