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Top Brain, Bottom Brain: Surprising Insights into How You Think [Kindle Edition]

Stephen Kosslyn , G. Wayne Miller
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $25.00
Kindle Price: $11.04
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Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc

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Book Description

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 book, 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.

Editorial Reviews


"Kosslyn and Miller describe a new insight emerging from contemporary brain research: that the upper reaches of the brain's cerebral hemispheres think differently from their lower portions... they bolster their argument with evidence from key studies, meta-analyses of brain functioning, and a new scale of cognitive style. The writing is lively and accessible, and I was excited about the idea of using insights from brain science to identify new dimensions of our character."
-- John D. Mayer, Scientific American/Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

"A beguiling sweep of brain science... a fun excursion through the mind, shedding light on one's own way of thinking."
-- Providence Sunday Journal.

"An invigorating thought-experiment on reassembling the brain's dynamic parts."
-- Publishers Weekly

"Kosslyn is one of the world's great cognitive neuroscientists of the late 20th and early 21st century."
-- Steven Pinker, bestselling author of The Language Instinct

"An exciting new way to think about our brains, and ourselves. Original, insightful, and a sweet read to boot."
-- Daniel Gilbert, Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, author of the international best seller Stumbling on Happiness

"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."
-- Robert M. Sapolsky, Stanford University Professor of Neurology and MacArthur Fellow

About 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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3727 KB
  • Print Length: 241 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1451645104
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (November 5, 2013)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #282,961 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Taxonomic oversimplification November 20, 2013
By Rab
Format:Audible Audio Edition
I do not regret buying this book, or listening to it. Up through Chapter 7 it provided a nice context for the reader to understand where the authors' theory comes from. And the fairly simple system of thinking "modes" probably has some value for making quick observations or decisions, perhaps for analyzing potential employees or partners.

However, I think the theory behind the book is much weaker than it could have been. It is an oversimplified approach based on a dichotomy between top and bottom brain regions -- ironic, because the authors are critical of the left-right brain dichotomy that is a favorite subject for banal observations people make about each other while engaging in small talk. They've done almost the same thing with the top-bottom dichotomy. They do emphasize that these two gross brain regions are systems, and that they work together to take in, process, and act upon the world. But the idea that there are exactly 4 "modes" of thinking comes off as preposterous. Why not simply discuss brain regions and discreet functions like they did in the early chapters?

Starting with Chapter 8, it apparently becomes unlikely that someone could be strongly specialized in *some* thought activities of the lower brain regions, and at the same time be strongly specialized in some or all of the upper brain processes. Suddenly it is all or nothing -- if you strongly prefer making lists, you will strongly show the trait of completing what is on those lists, and strongly show the trait of controlling emotional outbursts, and strongly show the trait of creating narratives to make sense of and remember large amounts of random data. That's the underlying assumption of the top-bottom theory.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A better analytic framework or a myth of the same kind? November 24, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
If the left-brain-right-brain psychology is guilty of over-simplification by attributing complex cognitive functions simply to a handful of different brain regions, I do not see how the authors can avoid the same of accusation. If the personality types of the left-right brain folks are far cry from Sperry's controlled scientific observation, I wonder why the authors think they are not making the same kind of exaggeration when they derive the "four cognitive modes" from the narrow claim on perception of shapes and location by Mishkin and Ungerleider. If their conjecture is thought to have any heuristic value, probably the same is with the conjecture of the logical/creative type of dyadic categorization. Whether the heuristic value is derived from common matches observed in everyday experiences or the reflection of some neuroanatomical myth is still yet to be seen.
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32 of 40 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Trite Brain, Banal Brain December 3, 2013
Bet you didn't know that your cerebral cortex has two parts. Well sort of. A kind of upper, frontish part and lower rearward part. Well, not exactly. I mean, some parts that you'd think were part of the upper part are really in the lower part, and like it's not always clear what's part of what, but the point is, they're different. They do different things, or differentish anyway; it's all a bit hazy- you know how the brain is. Now your upper brain part does space, like where and shape and things of that sort, so it handles planning- I mean because really maybe it's better to say it does 'how' more than just 'where', according to the author. But the mostly lower brain part does something different- it does what. Like such as, identifying and perhaps classifying and other related things, so it brings in a lot of emotion too. The book's not super clear on that.

Now I can already hear you thinking, how could the lower part identify what something is without analyzing it's spatial structure and relations, which is what the upper part does? And that would be an interesting and possibly profound question. So this book doesn't address that.

But guess what? It turns out that the the two parts of the brain interact. They're connected! It's true. It's all scientifically summarized by a line drawing of the brain lobes. See those swooping arrows? Dynamic, real time connectivity! (And you just know that's got to include some feedback.) I've rarely seen so much neurobiology packed so economically into to such a compact, childlike illustration. Take that, people who say the brain is constituted from functionally homogeneous disconnected domains!

So now you're thinking: distinct yet connected functional regions, upper and lower brain parts, I get that.
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39 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best around November 6, 2013
By T. Lord
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book succeeds where most books on neuroscience fail. It is readable and useful. It is also based on extensive research. Kosslyn previously taught psychology at Harvard and has since moved on to other projects. The short quiz in the 13th chapter of the book will help you understand how you process information. One of the best books on the subject where others promise much but typically fall short.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Kosslyn’s idea of “cognitive modes” is decades old.

Betty Edwards {Artist/Author/ Left-brain-Right-brain Theorist} used the idea of thinking modes in her 1979 book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”.

Kosslyn has a whopping 4, yes, count them... 4 cognitive modes!

Ricki Linksman (Educator/Author/Left-brain-Right-brain Theorist) had at least triple that number of modes if you include her version of middle-brainers. She called them “mixed preferences” in her 1996 book “How to Learn Anything Quickly”.

Only left-brainy neuroscientists can repackage Left Brain Right Brain Theory and not see it for what it is.

The existence of this book proves the Left Brain Right Brain Theory is true. And it demonstrates that neuroscientists are still playing catch up. This book gets neuroscience to the year 1976... the year Betty Edwards got her doctoral degree. (well... maybe to the Orwellian doublespeak year of 1984)

Kosslyn and Miller may have added something useful to left-brain right-brain theory so I'll give them three stars for that.

If you want a useful application of brain science to your life go with Betty Edwards or Ricki Linksman.

If you want to see just how left-brainy neuroscience is in real life then read this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A new and powerful theory.
For some reason, I was always suspect of the left-right brain theory. Every other scientist kept saying that the brain can (and does) storage information "all over the... Read more
Published 27 days ago by Cecilio
2.0 out of 5 stars it's like a dumbed-down version of the Meyers-Briggs scheme
I was looking forward to an insightful book that would change the way I thought about the brain and personalities. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Winnie
1.0 out of 5 stars A Complete Waste of Time and Money
It is hard for me to imagine a worse, more trivial or less meaningful book than this, and I have a pretty good imagination. Read more
Published 4 months ago by S. Zolotow
5.0 out of 5 stars A new way of thinking about thinking
We have a rough sense that people have different stable personalities that cross situations to some extent. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Todd I. Stark
5.0 out of 5 stars very good book
the book was like i bought it retail from a book store: it's durable, brand new, and enjoyable to read.
Published 5 months ago by wendy stavig
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprising details about our brains.
Everyone should read this book. It is a shock to learn how our brains really work and how these details describe personality types
we all are familiar with.
Published 6 months ago by B. J. Paine
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read
A very enjoyable book that well describes the complexity that is the human brain. It could have been full of jargon but it is written so even simple men such as myself can get it.
Published 7 months ago by Michael G. Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars Brainiac's gift
I accutally can't take the credit. My brother is a brainiac and he wanted the book for Christmas and he loved it!
Published 8 months ago by Suzy Renteria
4.0 out of 5 stars wonderful insight
Very fascinating book with an intriguing thesis. I can see using its perspective in numerous ways and enjoyed testing myself for some insight into my cognitive modes.
Published 8 months ago by John Roberts
3.0 out of 5 stars Better Brains
If you don't know any neuroanatomy then this is the book for you. No major insights and reads more like a college text.
Published 8 months ago by spsanders
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