This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
A hacker’s journey through the Enneagram and the emerging brain research
Copyright © 2005 by Peter Savich.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ for details.
Thanks for this book (or blame, in the case that this book proves painful to read), goes to: • My dear ex-wife Jennifer and beloved mother Panayiota who, respectively, divorced me and died, around about the same time in the late 1990s, thereby sending me headlong into a glorious tailspin, a result of which for me is either a sharpened eye, or madness. You be the judge; My dear friends Tony and Dana who, not once, but twice, handed me Helen Palmer’s Enneagram book. The second time stuck; My adored father Dusan, whose endless curiosity evidently rubbed off on me, turning me into a breathless chaser of information and patterns, for better or for worse; My beloved wife Kate, who has humored me these past few years in my efforts to write up this pig; My dear sister Kathy who actually read the whole thing, provided constructive feedback, and even feigned interest right up through Chapter 6, at which point she confessed that, although the book bored her stiff, she had read and edited it out of sense of obligation, which comment sent the two of us into an interesting conversation about obligation versus appetite as a wellspring of motivation; My dear friends to whom I sent drafts of this book, who were gracious enough to remain silent, and refrain from telling me what they really thought about it, thereby affording me the illusion that this book is interesting, long enough to get me to write up the meat of it; Various publisher and authority type figures to whom I have sent this book, who likewise graciously remained silent, or diplomatically demurred, thereby freeing me of any remaining inner drive to finish the bloody thing; You all, who will either remain silent, as has been my experience thus far, or who will pipe up and instruct me on where to take this beast; Some of you all, who, I still hold out hope, will find this topic enduringly fascinating, and will express eagerness to collaborate on developing these ideas further.
Preface ............................................................................................................. v Introduction: History is Calling.................................................................................. 1 Abstract ........................................................................................................... 15 Part One: Promising Territory for Science............................................................ 23 Chapter 1: Enneagram Basics............................................................................... 27 Chapter 2: Basic Fears ......................................................................................... 45 Chapter 3: Triads ................................................................................................. 59 Part Two: The Seat of Personality.......................................................................... 95 Chapter 4: A Primer on the Brain ......................................................................... 97 Chapter 5: Mood ................................................................................................ 125 Chapter 6: Fear .................................................................................................. 179 Part Three: Connecting the Dots .......................................................................... 223 Chapter 7: Other Attempts ................................................................................. 225 Chapter 8: The Full Hypothesis.......................................................................... 226 Chapter 9: Suggested Research .......................................................................... 227 Epilogue: Implications ...................................................................................... 228
Bibliography ......................................................................................................... 229
that’s your business. As for you who is reading this book. pessimism. I’ve never formally studied. Later in this book. 1 “Optimism”. “pessimism” and “fear” are highly ambiguous terms. Under this model. Given all this. well. In the past decade or so.Preface I’m a hacker. v . the Enneagram is certainly a New Age thing. So for now. that field has had much to say in recent years about how our brains manifest optimism. nor have ever made money in writing. So. in some ways. the nine personality types of the Enneagram are described as nine different patterns of these four mental states.1 As for neuroscience. let alone reading? What I can offer you by way of an answer is my motivation for writing it. Put simply. the Enneagram. I have no business writing this book. this branch of science has exploded in research activity. My model for joining these two fields depends upon two pairs of mental states: (optimism. pessimism). or neuroscience. and (aware fear. try to resist racing too far ahead on how these notions might apply to the Enneagram or neuroscience. aware fear. why might this book be worth browsing. When it comes to this book. What I write about here is a model that I have stumbled across which purports to join the Enneagram with the current findings of neuroscience. that motivation is this: to kick off a dialogue directed toward the search for a profound truth about humanity. Assuming the term “New Age” can be ascribed coherent meaning. unaware fear). I’m strictly an amateur. The Enneagram is a theory of human personality. and unaware fear. Neuroscience is the scientific study of the brain. I assign precise definitions to them.
the truth monopoly is claimed by both science and religion. before I answer. But I found that when I contacted them directly about my model. if my model is valid. Validation for the Enneagram. would cause each domain to leap ahead. these assertions are based upon the research and words of these leaders. Why would this fact be important? One reason is that this would validate the Enneagram. As of this writing. let me just point out that my decision to post this book on the Internet for free download speaks to my suspicion that there are not vi . But that is not my experience. or how fear manifests in the brain. and order for neuroscience. It is upon the work of these very leaders that this book depends. That is. and mine for writing it.Accordingly. As for neuroscience. In today’s world. why should you? Well. that enormous body of research struggles for coherence. I have contacted leaders in both fields – Enneagram and neuroscience – soliciting interest in pursuing this model. So maybe this book is a waste of time after all. they weren’t much interested. if the very experts upon whom this book relies can’t even muster interest in it. The validation I speak of here acknowledges the former claim. the Enneagram will enjoy a firm underpinning in neuroscience. my model would bring order to a growing. unruly sea of research concerning human personality. for one reason or another. No? Perhaps. Yours for reading it. After all. Domains leaping ahead might seem rather compelling to the people formally studying and making money within these domains. when this book makes assertions about what the Enneagram is.
Think about radical turnings in those fields. And it is to you daring souls that I note: radical breakthroughs in fields often come. Now. On the contrary. It’s not that I’m shy about talking about myself. You’re right. not enough of you to attract the interest of a for-profit publisher. for now. I had wanted the arguments of this book to stand on their own. Consider various domains in science. music. to serve as the only topic of relevance. I’ve been a bore most of my life. religion. Doing the math. Now consider the person or people who fomented that turning. my self has served as the topic of greatest interest to myself. rather than who I am. But even though this book won’t be read by many. one quickly realizes that more than six billion others can assert equally compelling credentials. At least. for the better part of my 42 years. I had wanted what I was saying. humanities. what I’m saying here is that my credential for revolutionizing not one. Let the reasoning and the chips fall where they may. I do suspect that one or more of you will take the plunge. and other human activities. But now that I’m ready to get over myself already. sport. is that I am an outsider to both. I find that I’m compelled to return to that same. I’ll just leave it at that. literature.many of “you”. but rather from outsiders. art. What’s so special about my own? Now I find myself compelled to say more about me than I had wanted to in this book. Were they “insiders” or “outsiders”? My reading has found that the latter are well-represented in the class of revolutionaries. not from the “experts” in those fields. old vii . but two domains. I realize that I’ve offered a terribly thin reed for your interest to stand upon. Essentially.
I’m well aware that my present certainty about this model may suffer the same fate. I viii . why am I? And why post this book for free download on the Internet? First. Nothing to get too excited about. my certainties have proven wrong. I had never questioned my certainty. (And yes. Of course. But in subsequent years. Disabuse me of this certainty of mine. It might be a big idea. I do notice the annoying number of times I have used the first person singular in this Preface – not to mention in this sentence. So that. This certainty has me eager to share this model with you. Please! I implore you. In any case. and to that point. I’ll say that I feel rather certain about this model of mine.boring topic. I’ve been infected with the “certainty” disease my entire life. my wife at the time hissed at me: “You’re so certain!” She said it like an epithet. To my tender ears at the time. If this model is faulty. at bottom. big idea. it was as if she had accused me of being “so beautiful!” or “so smart!” or “so wonderful!”. and am now selfpublishing it. now and then. critical argument. I want to hear your reasoned. I feel like it’s a true. Well. is why I have written this book.) A useful place to start when discussing me is to ask: If even the experts of the two fields that I’m looking to join in this book are not even interested in it. This confused me. During the dissolution of my first marriage. certainty certainly seemed to have had served me well. I’ve come to realize that my certainty is merely a feeling – one that is in the same class as indigestion or movements of my bowels. that’s not saying much. I have an idea. So that is one reason I’m self-publishing this book. for the remainder of this Preface at least.
I struggle. and think about the patterns each was exhibiting. I assess complex systems of information. This is only one way in which the human brain works. if you’ve read “Men are from Mars. But. but it’s the best I can do.want this idea of mine tested in the court of my peers. and identify useful patterns in them. It informs the filter of my personal rose-colored glasses. and study the findings of neuroscience closely. Women from Venus. my main activity has been analysis. I am aware that there are other ways of looking out upon the world.” may help explain why I’m onto my second marriage. and everyone else too. I feel I’ve hit upon a sound. time and again. common one. I snap back ix . Since I’m “nobody” in relation to the subject matter of my idea. Over the 30-some years of my work-study life. (Which. and have made money in those fields and in a number of others. “my peers” in this case means you. In this work. but also my personal. It just so happens that for me. Trying out various patterns.) So how I developed my model was to study the Enneagram closely. trying to peer through those other lenses too. Another topic you might want to hear about before plunging forward in this book is: Why does this topic interest me? Yet another is: How did I develop my model? The second question is easier. This sort of analysis is simply the default way that I look out upon the world. at this stage of my life. this kind of mental activity has predominated not only my working life. so let’s begin with it. I realize this explanation may be unsatisfying. I have formally studied mathematics and law.
my mother. No more nor no less interesting than the various topics featured week-to-week in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.into analysis mode. is: Why have I directed my analysis machine toward the Enneagram and neuroscience? My interest in the neuroscience fields cited in this book is primarily as the body of work that must be cited in order for any theory of human personality to be validated. At the time. marriage. My simple understandings about myself. That was during the period of my first. friends introduced me to the Enneagram. So this question really boils down to a simple one: Why does the Enneagram interest me? In the early 1990s. by far the saddest day in x . For another. At the time. prior to these banal life events of mine in the late 1990s. I believe. ultimately doomed. died of the degenerative disease known as ALS. But anyway. were blown up. I was divorced from my first wife. But then. It was a trade I was not at all prepared to make. who I adored. three life events shattered my child’s worldview. I found the Enneagram to be a mildly interesting topic. in my late 20s. about life. Third. who I also deeply adored and who adored me even more. my financial fortunes took a turn toward the black. about how the world works. For one. The predominant feeling that coursed through me during the late 1990s was the disorienting sensation of vertigo. Understand that. I can do it (at least I think I can). I just can’t describe how I do it. via the Internet. in the latter half of the 1990s. the more interesting question. it felt as if God had traded my first wife and mother with me for a pile of cash.
Those days are like God beating us with a stick. their truly awful days come separated in time. I oppose notions that purport to equate money with the feelings and sensibilities of us humans. God beat me senseless. and then tossed some coins on me for good measure. all of these beatings came pretty much on the same day. I’m just like most all other adults. However. If those days are separated sufficiently. For years after that game. and losing a ballgame is the saddest day of your life. The time between sad days allow most of us to digest. Well. we may develop flinches. I experienced those doozers of a day. It is from this time that my healthy disrespect for America’s culture of money took hold. a piercing of pain. What I’m anti is the worship of money. In the late 1990s. It’s not that I’m anti-money. But rather than pausing to let me get back up. xi . These days.my entire life had been the day that the basketball team I played on in my youth lost a certain game. and (2) you’re overdue for some doozers of a bad day. two things are true: (1) you’ve had one unusually lucky 33-year ride. He/She continued to beat me until I simply could not digest or rationalize those beatings under the worldview to which I was clinging. It was as if God had beaten with me with a stick. For most people. we are able to heal in time for the next beating. thinking back on it would bring upon a quickening of my heart. But here’s where I lucked out again. and rationalize those days. I now realize that when you’ve made it to 33. We all have been assigned baggage to carry around with us. For me. in the late 1990s.
my interest was mildly piqued. and tossed dirt onto the box. (I’m talking about things like Yoga. although I knew that death visited others. this realization has pushed me to places and practices I never would have imagined in my younger days. but it also explained just about every other human dynamic I could think of. But then there came that Spring morning in 1999 when we stood over my mother’s freshly dug grave. I too would die. I knew. I would have answered “Yes.In the year 2000. it still does. xii . For me. a blinding light went off in my head. Although the content of that view was still fuzzy. Nearly ten years had passed since the first time they handed me that book. in 2000. those same friends of mine once again handed me their Enneagram book.) Being an optimist. I knew that some day. Just an unstated assumption.” But secretly. I’ll give you one quick example. This wasn’t a fully formed belief or anything. had you asked me if I was going to die some day. (You probably are too. I knew it was radically different from my old one. But in 2000. lowered her coffin into it. Pondering this realization further over the coming years. The moment the dirt hit the box. This Enneagram model clearly and unambiguously explained not only my life and my own banal life events of the late 1990s. I suspected that I was going to be the one who cheated death. when I re-read that book. Prior to my mother’s death. I’ve come to accept that I am dying a little bit every day. The first time.) Well. fasting. when my new worldview was cracking out of its egg. I awoke with a different worldview. and meditation here.
money. it must find validation in the findings of neuroscience. and realized it was correct. I’ll conclude this Preface by saying one thing further. I had come to distrust these feelings of certainty. Freud. either one or both is false. this model of human personality was the Truth.This caught my attention. I don’t care much for money anymore. But by 2000. This book is about how one goes from the Enneagram to the brain and back.g. A few years ago. I’ve certainly had my xiii . “you have no ambition!” What this person meant by “ambition” was what current American culture means – namely. When I re-read that Enneagram book in 2000. How could a mere model of human personality – a model with so flimsy a foundation – have so exactly predicted the course of my own life. Essentially. the quest for the ego triad: fame. and/or power. in exasperation. and those of my friends and loved ones? This question sent me headlong into the findings of neuroscience. etc. My rusty math brain knew that if A is true and B is true. This is what I’ve written up here. To my sensibilities. what I was doing was a “certainty check”. I thought about this assessment of me. it’s about how I get from here to there and back.) for that matter – is true. a friend said to me. Does this road serve you as well? I’m eager to know. I knew that if the Enneagram – or any personality theory (e. I think I’ve found that validation. Myers-Briggs. there must be road from A to B and back. that old feeling of certainty hit me. At least. As I mentioned above. This distrust is what led me to neuroscience. Else.
I believe it rationalizes (without reducing) religion and spirituality. I drink only water. Concerning health. based on what I’ve read. It offers an elegant exit to the cul de sac in which the neuroscience of personality is presently stuck. How and why is America different from Canada. As I am writing this. It explains cultural differences (e. my ambition is to live to the age of 120. and how each theory falls short. Nope.g. and thereby love them – even the “evil” ones among us. Freud. as an added bonus. and health. I’m done with conventional ambitions. Second. In my fast. wisdom. and Maslow came up with their particular theories of personality. for example. First. this will promote my health ambitions. It explains why Messrs. and tend to sharpen my understandings. It is to say only that I’m done with chasing such things. the Enneagram allows us to understand others. it’s true. This is not to say that I’ll throw back any money sent my way. But then I responded that I do have other ambitions. it seems to rehabilitate the field of evolutionary psychology. Where does this book fit into these present ambitions of mine? The answer is that it fits in the core. At the other end. the Enneagram serves as a bridge to an astonishing array of domains. Also. and why both differ from France). I am doing this primarily because I believe. Jung. I am in the midst of a three-day fast that will end upon the winter solstice. I’ve found that my fasts tend to make me more loving. And I’m done with trying to exert control over other people. and ingest no food. Mine are these: love. For example. nor disavow any powers I possess.fill of what meager fame I’ve enjoyed. Adler. The topics are xiv . nor shirk from any fame that greets me.
endless. Wherever human fingerprints are found, the Enneagram serves to explain much, if not most. I find these explanations fascinating. I intend to write further about them. But before I venture too far down that ledge, please do me this favor: read this dull text. Then tell me whether or not there’s anything here. Peter Savich Los Gatos, California December 18, 2005
Introduction: History is Calling
It is early in the 21st century, and America is uneasy. The crash of NASDAQ in 2000 was followed by the events of September 11, 2001. Together, these events served to jolt us awake. Our “Culture Wars” between the political Left and Right, which had been strident before the millennium, have since turned caustic and incendiary. Evangelical Christianity and bearish finance agree on at least one thing: whether it’s about “rapture” or crushing debt, America is standing on the precipice of a profound crisis. If this sentiment is correct, then the question arises: What will save us? The answer that has come from American culture over the past half century is that technology will save us. But we now know that while an airplane can ferry a child to urgent, life-saving surgery, the same technology can be repurposed as a missile to vaporize us while we sit at our desks. We now know that what matters is not the technology, but rather the state of mind of the humans using the technology. What goes on inside our heads? Today, many centuries after the Reformation, we stand at the apex of mechanization. Yet despite all our wondrous gadgets and the magic pills of pharmacology, we are faced with the truism we learned as children: It takes only one asshole to ruin it for the rest of us. “Why did he do it?”, we wonder. Why does one person respond one way, and a second person respond the opposite way? Stated another way, in these early troubled days of the new millennium, the oldest open question stares us straight in the face: What makes us tick? This question has always been pressing. But it is not until these current days that the question has emerged as universally urgent. History is littered with
the carcasses of societies that fumbled this question and consequently vanished from the books. But today, the threatened society – America – harbors the most awesomely destructive weapons ever devised by mankind, and the threat – “terrorism” – seems as nebulous, borderless, and inexplicable as metastasized cancer. Even more disturbing, each side seems to be saying the very same thing. Namely: “If we hit them hard enough, they will crawl away.” The reason this dynamic is universally urgent today is that it seems unbounded. After September 11, while driving, did you ever catch yourself wondering if the oncoming vehicle might suddenly decide to veer headlong into you? If so, you suddenly realized how many innumerable assumptions of civility you had been making. Now if, as the Right in America tells us, the “terrorists” are “evil” and their motivation is to destroy order, civility, and freedom, then there truly is no safe place on earth. Conversely, if, as the Left in America tells us, the American leadership is unbalanced in its fears, then the prospect of global nuclear winter is as real, if not more so, as it was in 1962. And if that global prospect is not far-fetched, then the potential for global financial collapse is even greater. So history seems to be laying down the gauntlet. It seems to be saying to us: “You’ve been on this planet for 100,000 years. You’ve had all that time to figure yourselves out. Time’s up. Either figure out what makes you tick, or move aside and give the dolphins a chance to run things.” Well, it’s not like we humans haven’t been trying. For the last few thousand years at least, many of us have proposed theories of personality to explain why different people sometimes respond differently. Among the most
famous were the ancient Greek theory of humors, and the Ayurvedic system which originated in ancient India. In the past century, the number of personality theories grew considerably. One major source of these theories was the circle of Sigmund Freud. A century ago, Mr. Freud developed a theory of personality based on the “pleasure principle”. This is the notion that we humans are born with the instinct to seek pleasure, and this instinct develops as we mature. “Disciples” of Mr. Freud, including Alfred Adler and Carl Jung, authored theories of their own. Decades later, others, including Abraham Maslow, proposed still new personality theories. And at the close of the century, the brain scientists (“neuroscientists”) took over this effort.
SCIENCE MEETS ANTI-SCIENCE
The good news is that this last effort may prove to be the most promising yet. The neuroscientific approach to cataloging human personality is the most promising because it involves measurements recorded by “objective” machines. Up until the close of the last century, studying human personality was a matter purely of inherently fallible human observation. But over the last ten years, technologies have emerged allowing recordings to be made in the deepest corners of living human brains – the deep corners from which human personality arises. Two of these technologies are Positron Emission Topography (“PET”) and Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (“fMRI”). Some of the critical brain research cited in this book rely on PET or fMRI or both. PET and fMRI serve as “poster children” for the remarkable advances of science.
The largest current manufacturer of PET is CTI Molecular Imaging. “[o]ne of the principal reasons for growth in the PET market is the increasing number of PET applications being approved for reimbursement by third-party payers. Both PET and fMRI are very expensive technologies. with headquarters in Knoxville. PET and fMRI equipment are owned by large. it wasn’t until 1999 that the chief inventor of PET. Mr. ranging in the millions of dollars for full systems. For example. and big medical research universities. the recent explosion of neuroscience papers based on PET and fMRI comes from big research hospitals.” Currently. and the study and “sacrifice” of lab animals – 4 . Moreover.. rather than just their structure. Inc. Although the first version of PET was invented in 1973. Michael Phelps. such as Medicare. MRI. Standing on the shoulders of older brain research – including EEG research. CTI’s sales of PET equipment did not begin to ramp up until the late 1990s. the study of brain damaged patients. and HMOs.PET and fMRI are relatively new technologies. private insurers. fMRI was invented in 1990 at AT&T Bell Laboratories. Tennessee. is older. the technology upon which fMRI is based. was awarded the Enrico Fermi Presidential Award and elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Phelps serves on the board of directors of CTI. As such. fMRI improved MRI by enabling researchers to study the functioning of living brains. it wasn’t until the late 1980s that it was useful for brain research. well-funded medical institutions and well-funded universities engaged in medical research. not until the late 1990s did PET began to approach widespread adoption among researchers. As CTI explains. Medicaid.
neuroscience has advanced to the point that one leading brain scientist claims that neuroscience will be the first to accurately map human personality. I picture Mr. One day not far from now. meditating on the beach. Davidson landing on the shore of human personality and jabbing the flag of neuroscience into the sand. Davidson hears is “ouch” because he has just impaled the New Age personologist who was already there. If this hypothesis proves correct. I suppose the assertion is true so long as we conveniently overlook the native population that preceded Columbus’ “discovery” by some ten thousand years or so. Today.the PET/fMRI research has brought neuroscience to a point of profound understanding of humanity. The hypothesis of this book is that what the neuroscientists are about to find out about personality and the brain has already been described by a theory of personality known as the Enneagram.” (Translation: “We’ll get there first!”) Mr. This is the point of this book. it will probably surprise many people. The next thing Mr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison argues: “[T]he categories that have emerged from psychiatric nosology and descriptive personality theory may be inadequate. Well. One reason is because the Enneagram seems to have come to us straight out of the heart of the “New Age. Davidson’s claim brings to mind that branch of history that asserts Columbus discovered America in 1492.” Credit for modern development of the theory goes to a Chilean who has claimed that a “divine coma” inspired him to teach the 5 . and  new categories and dimensions derived from neuroscience research may produce a more tractable parsing of this complex domain.
The point here is that with the Enneagram today. No experimental rats. covering the same ground. and reaching the same conclusions. it seems unlikely that any have delved into the theory to any significant depth. Nor any federal research grants. Davidson have never even heard of the Enneagram. Antecedents of the theory are generally muddled. Given the Enneagram’s modern emergence and early life in domains farthest from conventional science. I could go on. Some adherents assert “sacred” properties of the numbers associated with the theory. at the Esalen Institute – recognized by some as ground zero of the New Age. At least. Big hospitals are nowhere in sight. And big medical research universities seem unlikely to touch the stuff with a ten foot pole. That neuroscience and the Enneagram seem to be unaware of each other does not necessarily mean they are unrelated. At the same time. with the experts mumbling vague things about the mystical branches of certain religions. there are no white lab coats. it seems entirely possible that leading neuroscientists like Mr. the two domains are parallel trains running in the same direction. one suspects that none of the experts has devoted significant effort looking into neuroscience. To my mind. reading the books of the Enneagram experts. 6 . Credit for popularization of the theory goes in part to Jesuit priests.theory. California. The theory was introduced to America in the 1960s in Big Sur.
If it is true that the Enneagram and neuroscience are describing the same thing. “Synthesis” is just a fancy word for “translation” and “matching.g. then somebody ought to tell them. a little alacrity might come in handy. when it comes to the subject of this book. the Enneagram could help accelerate neuroscience’s revelation of human personality. what I am is a synthesist. More to the point. I am neither an expert in neuroscience. These experts have published their findings and theories in books and in papers. I’m a hacker – a layperson diving headlong into two information-intensive subjects.” Enneagram experts talk in terms of “growth 7 . Neuroscience could answer many open questions in the Enneagram (e. At least I believe I have these abilities. The only qualification for connecting one set of information with another set is the ability to reason. Since history seems to be rather impatient these days. This information comes from the experts in the respective fields. nor an expert in the Enneagram. My qualifications are as follows: ability to read and ability to reason. What I write in this book about both subjects does not come from me.If this is true. In essence. The only qualification for making use of this information is the ability to read. what part is nature? what part nurture?). could serve as a map to guide and make efficient future neuroscience research on personality and mental health. for its part. In other words. The Enneagram. each side should know it. But who? WHY ME? I claim that I am eminently qualified to draw a neuroscience-Enneagram connection.
e. I was assuming that this book would be formally published. I had pored through the Enneagram books. Since most of us learned matching as infants. 8 . But now. Although I swear I haven’t touched a drop of Math in years. talk in terms of “affective style. I am a Recovering Mathie who. the only job left is to match common words. The second quirk of circumstance at play here is my reading taste. 3 “Opposites are complements”.g. one day while walking through the bookstore on his way to the “Biology” and “Physics” sections. the rest is child’s play. But if that’s the case. Once translated. “return to essence”. This urge holds no matter how divergent the two bodies of knowledge (see.” “brain plasticity. Caveat emptor. The Math Urge tells one that if two different sets of knowledge strike one as true. and my ideas here are madness. Before anyone could stop me and slap some sense into me.” Neuroscientists.2 The other possibility is that this book is the result of a rather odd combination of interests. you aren’t reading this anyway.” The job of this book is to translate both into common English.” and “prefrontal asymmetry. took a wrong turn and suddenly found himself lost among “Self Help” and “New Age”. 2 At the time I wrote this line.. then why hasn’t anyone else yet written it? One possible answer is that I am mad. But if this book is child’s play. and “spiritual work. The Math Urge is the compulsion toward a unified truth. Niels Bohr and “Contrari Sunt Complementa”3).dialectic”. there must be a unifying theory connecting them if they are indeed true. I’ll confess that I still live with the Math Urge. One confession I’ll make is that I’m a Recovering Mathie. since I’m self-publishing this book over the Internet. for their part. the distinct possibility remains that I am entirely mad.
more accurately. In fact. plus $2. then we should be able to look at humans through the eyes of PET and fMRI and recognize the theory as true. The point of this book is to describe that road.” If the Enneagram is true. One way to approach consensus reality is through the technologies of neuroscience. it happened. Well. I said to myself: “Self.I must confess that I found the Enneagram theory somewhat interesting. I found the theory breathtakingly compelling. will buy you the proverbial overpriced caffeine fix. I’ll admit it. I believe they are. the Enneagram needs more.82. At some point while reading the Enneagram books. we should be able to do so if PET and fMRI are truth-telling technologies. The problem is. the Math Urge says there must be a road between them. The Enneagram struck me as Truth laid bare. if one thing is true. Now this testimony of mine. After pondering the problem for awhile. I found it rather persuasive. then there must be a road between them. the more Truth it seems to reveal. I’ll say one more thing here about the road between the Enneagram and neuroscience: that road may not be so obvious. I stumbled upon what I suspect to be a road taking us from the Enneagram to neuroscience. and a second thing is true. It needs to be seen as truth through eyes of many more people than simply myself and a few others. WHY THIS BOOK? To be fully candid. OK. If the Enneagram is indeed true. I 9 . That is. the better I understand it. However. The Math Urge hit me. and the findings of neuroscience are true. for buying the status of “consensus reality”.
I’ll just say that I’m reading the Enneagram books and the neuroscience papers with the attention to detail and dogged persistence that perhaps only a trade secret lawyer poring over source code would bring to bear. (At least.believe. So in Hawaii. or who would seriously consider information 10 . and a little bit of luck to find those dirt roads. It’s far easier to miss that turnoff than it is to find it. If the current Enneagram books were road maps.) I have been asked: “If your primary audience for this book is the people who control the PET and fMRI machines. one will likely miss the turnoff to the dirt road that heads to the brain.” I suspect there aren’t many neuroscientists who venture into the “Self Help” section of the bookstore. This doesn’t mean that I purport to be an expert on the Enneagram or neuroscience. and allow the rental car to go where no rental car has gone before.) The same dynamic holds with the Enneagram. I’ll confess that I’m also a Recovering Lawyer. that some Enneagram experts seem to have missed some key notions at the edges of the theory. it takes close attention. they would be like those tourist maps you get from rental car agencies in Hawaii. dogged persistence. Those maps tend to exaggerate the highways. not since the last time a misanthrope like you rented the car. why don’t you just send them an email and point them to the Enneagram?” My answer is: “I did and I didn’t get any response. and tend not to show the narrow dirt roads. If one simply picks up an Enneagram book and tries to head directly from there to the brain. I don’t. while other experts may have given undue emphasis to red herrings.K. (O.
it’s not altogether clear that they’d find the subtle turnoff toward the brain described in this book. If it is. the Introduction began by referring to an impending global crisis. The primary purpose of this book is to invite neuroscientific research. satisfactory proof will come only via the use of brain technologies like PET. on the surface. Moreover. Marrying opposites is tricky business requiring careful analysis. After all. even if neuroscientists read the Enneagram books. The technology exists today to conduct the research to find out if the Enneagram is in fact scientifically valid. seem opposite. one might begin to suspect that this book is an uber-self-help book. In my opinion. and EEG.from that section as being useful to their work. the gains to the understanding and treatment of mental illness alone would be staggering. I suspect most would filter out tips from lay people like myself. Now. and provides reasoned arguments in support. Tough to fit this careful analysis into a paper. 11 . HELPING YOURSELF At this point. Or even if they did. Maybe this book even outlines a blueprint for saving the world. So the next question is: Why a book and not simply a paper? The answer is that there’s a lot of ground to cover when one is trying to marry two fields that. and the pressing need for humans to understand humans. this book does not prove my claim that the Enneagram is reflected in the current findings of neuroscience. this book simply presents a detailed hypothesis. So one might suspect that this book is not merely a self-help book. fMRI. This book does not present direct Enneagram-brain research using these technologies. Instead. but rather a human-help book.
Now. not only is this book not a save-the-world book. rather than of kind – a problem that may turn out to be best resolved by non-pharmacological means. I wouldn’t expect you to feel any better about yourself. Those books are placed in the “Self Help” section of the bookstore because their primary purpose is for people to help themselves feel better. I would suspect that a majority of scientists is not ready for profound truths to emerge from “pseudoscience”. after you read this book. this book is not like the bulk of Enneagram books. Nor would I suspect religious types to be ready to trade their Satanic notions about “evil” for mundane recordings of blood flow in certain areas of the brain. All this book seeks to do is to up the ante on the dialogue concerning possible neuroscientific underpinnings of the Enneagram. Nor would I suspect the pharmaceutical companies to be ready to conceive of mental illness as a problem of degree. even if this book manages to help move such a dialogue forward. In fact.Sorry to disappoint you but this book is far more prosaic than all that. it’s not even a self-help book. One place to start is to move toward a universal understanding of humanity. one might ask: So what’s with the global crisis. You might feel that. That is. save-the-world stuff at the start of the Introduction? The answer is: We have to start somewhere. but that is not the purpose of this book. With this humble objective. Accordingly. we are probably decades away from this understanding reaching a degree of universality sufficient to impact society. and even if that dialogue ultimately leads to a profound understanding of humanity. I would suspect even that many Enneagram 12 . For example.
Instead. But. It does not substitute for the Enneagram books of the experts. So I repeat once more the narrow purpose of this book. the purpose of Part One is to sift out those aspects of the theory that are fodder for neuroscience. adoption of that truth into society promises to be a slow and painful process. this book would offer a theory. The Epilogue then 13 . if it was all that clean. then Part Three should fall out rather cleanly. Part Two dives into the current findings of neuroscience. THIS BOOK This book is divided into three parts. It promises to be slow and painful because a great many will not want to accept that truth given that it contradicts their own deeply held worldview or interest. Finally. If Parts One and Two are well formed. Instead. of course. or modify this book’s hypothesis. even if the hypothesis of this book proves true. reject. So Chapter 9 identifies the holes remaining to be filled by research. Part One introduces the Enneagram. it focuses on certain recent findings concerning mood and fear.Hand Wavers are not ready to bequeath their field to the People for the Scientific Treatment of Rats. So Part One approaches the Enneagram from an oblique angle relative to the common treatment of the theory. But the experts apparently weren’t thinking about the brain when they wrote their books. not merely a hypothesis. Part Three does the matching. This Part does not canvass all of neuroscience. There is a great deal of research in these areas. Reasonably firm findings are emerging. and Other Expendable Life Forms. In other words. That purpose is to encourage at least one sincere neuroscientist to conduct studies to validate. Monkeys.
In short. History might add: “And not a moment too soon.” 14 .concludes this book with some provocative suggestions as to the potential consequences of the validation of this hypothesis. validation may well harken the dawning of a new understanding of humanity.
understandable. However. A model that I have developed joins the Enneagram with recent findings concerning the brain. and true. my model serves as a road between the Enneagram and the brain: My model is a road. THE ENNEAGRAM The Enneagram is a theory of human personality.Abstract This Chapter summarizes the hypothesis of this book. The hypothesis of this book asserts that the Enneagram is reflected in the current findings of neuroscience. the 15 . then feel free to dispense with reading the next 200 pages or so. Although survival and non-survival are unitary notions. Under this theory. then the subsequent chapters await your attention. Those pages merely flesh out this hypothesis. combined with a fear of nonsurvival. If these next few pages strike you as clear. all humans are assumed to possess a survival instinct. if you demur from these simple declarations. As such.
But there are 9 different types of desire. 9. Without further ado. the Enneagram claims that the root desire or attachment of humans is to their survival. and so on). Not surprisingly. These type numbers have precise meanings. 2 is adjacent to 1 and 3. these numbers are 1. But certainly not more than three. while 1 is adjacent to 2 and 9. together with 9 corresponding types of fear. 2. fear) pairs are as follows: Type Desire Two Loved Three Valuable Four Significant Five Competent Six Secure Seven Satisfied Eight Strong Fear Unwanted Worthless Insignificant Incapable Insecure Pained Weak 16 . our personality might straddle two “adjacent” types. (attachment. aversion).e.Enneagram asserts that there are actually nine “flavors” or types of these instincts. We don’t spend equal time sampling all or most of the flavors. these nine types of (desire. …. These types define our personality. As noted above. At most. “adjacency” arises from the numbers the Enneagram assigns to the nine types. the root fear or aversion is to their non-survival. fear). For convenience. or more formally. “Adjacency” is defined in the expected way (i. Each corresponds to a particular pair of (desire. The Enneagram further says that each of us lives out our life as only one of these personality types.
the 2 is a pessimist because the 2 is sensitive to feeling unloved. the 8 is an optimist because the 8 is sensitive to feeling strong. I mean that the type is conscious of feeling uncomfortable when type’s particular fear is triggered. 7) … (8. I mean the following: the type is sensitive to its desire. By “optimism”. and unaware fear. “Pessimism” is the opposite. aware fear. 6. pessimism.Nine Peaceful One Good Lost Defective Perhaps you’ve noticed that this list begins with type 2 rather than type 1. 1) Triad 2: (2. 9) MY MODEL It is as at this point that we leave the Enneagram experts and enter my own model. By “aware fear”. 1) … (3. 7. 9. 6. 3. For example. Two interesting triads are: Triad 1: (2. For example. 5. For example. the 5 – an 17 . 4) … (5. and tends to associate strength with self. This model makes an assertion concerning what is “interesting” about these two triads. and tends to associate being unloved with self. That interesting thing is that these triads elegantly allocate four mental states: optimism. In this model. and the tendency of that type to associate this fear with self. pessimism is sensitivity of a type to its fear. and tends to associate that desire with self. This is because the Enneagram experts say that the nine types can be grouped in interesting ways called “triads”. 8) … (4.
unaware fear) manifest in the brain.“aware fear” type -. For example. and (aware fear.fears being incapable. But when the 1’s goodness is threatened. the 1 is an “unaware fear” type which fears being defective. the 1’s consciousness of feeling defective is slow to come. these four mental states are allocated among the 9 types as follows (notice that Triad 1 runs along the rows. pessimism). These two pairs correspond 18 . Triad 2. and is quite conscious of feeling incapable the moment the 5’s competence is threatened. the 1 is unaware of this fear being realized. “Unaware fear” is the opposite. Under my model. along the columns): Optimism 8 Unaware Fear • • • optimism non-pessimism unaware fear 7 Aware Fear • • • optimism non-pessimism aware fear 3 Aware Fear & Unaware Fear • • • • optimism non-pessimism aware fear unaware fear • • • • • • • • • • Optimism & Pessimism 9 optimism pessimism unaware fear 5 optimism pessimism aware fear 4 optimism pessimism aware fear unaware fear • • • • • • • • • • Pessimism 1 non-optimism pessimism unaware fear 6 non-optimism pessimism aware fear 2 non-optimism pessimism aware fear unaware fear Enneagram = Nine Patterns of Four Different Mental States THE BRAIN Current findings in neuroscience describe how (optimism. At first.
This asymmetry is akin to hand dominance. and still other are ambidextrous. with right PFC exhibiting more activity than the left. respectively. 19 . as well as a left amygdala and a right amygdala. the situation is reversed. Further. while the right mediates unaware fear. However. Some of us are left-handed. This means that for some people. The brain is divided into a left side and right side. No research of which I am aware has considered the interaction between PFC asymmetry and amygdala asymmetry. Fairly settled findings support the claim that the left PFC mediates optimism. the amygdala just inside our temples. their left PFCs consistently exhibit more activity than does their right PFC. rather thorough and well-constructed study found that the left amygdala mediates aware fear. activity on both sides is relatively balanced. For still others. recent amygdala research provocatively suggests that this dynamic may indeed hold for the amygdala as well. while the right PFC mediates pessimism. A recent. As for the amygdala. others right-handed. Apparently. So there exists a left PFC and a right PFC.to two regions of the brain. it is well settled that individuals differ in a systemic way with respect to PFC asymmetry. the same dynamic holds in our PFC. These are the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the amygdala. For others. The PFC lies under our foreheads. this “dominance” dynamic has not been reported as of this writing.
this hypothesis proposes the following: Left PFC 8 Right Amygdala • • left PFC dominant right amygdala dominant 7 Left Amygdala • • left PFC dominant left amygdala dominant 3 Right & Left Amygdala • • left PFC dominant amygdala balanced • • • • • • Left & Right PFC 9 PFC balanced right amygdala dominant 5 PFC balanced left amygdala dominant 4 PFC balanced amygdala balanced • • • • • • Right PFC 1 right PFC dominant right amygdala dominant 6 right PFC dominant left amygdala dominant 2 right PFC dominant amygdala balanced This same information is represented in the following schematic diagram: 20 .MY HYPOTHESIS My hypothesis is that the 9 Enneagram types are simply labels for certain patterns of asymmetry dominance in the PFC and amygdala. Specifically.
Now guess which type is the only type prone to manic-depression. For example.e. the 7 shifts to the 1 (i. it’s Northeast to Southwest. Similarly. the 7 acquires attributes of the 1). one aspect about the Enneagram I didn’t mention above is that when a type feels sufficiently insecure. The 8 schematic runs Northwest to Southeast. Could these two types be opposite in temperament? 21 . For example. This shift between mania (the left side of the moon) and depression (the right side of the moon) is nicely captured by this schematic. also known as bipolar? That’s right.Schematic of My Hypothesis This schematic is evocative. when the 7 feels sufficiently insecure. These schematics are opposites in a different way. for the 6. that type “shifts” to a second type. compare the 8 with the 6. In fact these two types are the only such pair in the entire Enneagram. Notice anything? They are left-right mirror images with no overlap. Look closely at the schematic for the 7 and for the 1. it’s the 7.
And this hypothesis will remain as merely a hypothesis until such time as significant brain research is conducted. The 8 is the swaggering bully who. among all the types. 22 . is most often considered “cowardly”. FURTHER RESEARCH But in the end. is most often considered “courageous”. all four corners of the schematic are lit up. It is my hope that this book will spur some of that research. the type is elegantly evoked by the schematic. Again. among all the types. The 6 is the fearful anxiety hag. What is the 4’s temperament? The Enneagram answers: the 4 is the theory’s “drama queen”. What about the 4? For the 4. pictures are just pictures. who.Bingo.
Part One: Promising Territory for Science .
core. the Enneagram describes a continuum of health. Three current. The experts further show how unlimited variability exists within each box. complementary aspects of a single. Moreover.” But it does so only for the sake of descriptive convenience.” by Helen Palmer (1988) (“Palmer1”) But this 25 . This assertion of the Enneagram concerning mental illness is controversial. If the assertion is true.e. “personality box”). the Enneagram “puts people into boxes. One of the most dramatic aspects of the Enneagram theory is that particular mental illnesses are explained as extreme forms of particular personality types.” by Don Richard Riso and Ross Hudson (1996) (“Riso/Hudson”) • “The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Others in Your Life. ordered way. it might well have a dramatic impact on the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.The Enneagram is by far the richest personality theory of which I am aware. this book argues that brain research to test the validity of the Enneagram is compelled. for each type (i. leading books on the Enneagram are: • “Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery. unlimited variability also follows specific patterns. The experts in the field explain that the boxes are fuzzy. and they overlap. Because of this alone. But they overlap in a systematic. the experts explain that all of the boxes represent merely different. the unhealthy end of which is a particular set of mental illnesses. Like all personality theories. That is. human attribute.
26 . The discussion here on the theory is drawn from these three books. But you don’t need to read those books to understand this book. The Palmer books cover some of the same ground. the Palmer books seem less analytic. I recommend reading those books. In addition. but closer to the actual words of regular people who serve as type examples. but do so in a more fluid and conversational tone. For an understanding of the full depth and breadth of the theory. and quite thorough. As well. these aspects should give you the flavor of the theory.• “The Enneagram in Love and Work: Understanding Your Intimate & Business Relationships.” by Helen Palmer (1995) (“Palmer2”) The Riso/Hudson book is rich in detail and structure. and also include additional matter. whereas Riso/Hudson is heavy on the authors’ analysis. and argues that these aspects seem to provide hooks on which to hang a connection to neuroscience. This book analyzes certain key aspects of the theory.
27 . In this book. Most of the scientists doing this brain research seem oblivious to this effect of their research. you are also interested in selfdiscovery. Are they just theories pulled out of thin air with no basis in science? Or is any of these theories reflected in the sciences? When it comes to human personality. That is. As the Introduction stated. Don’t get me wrong. these books introduce the theory assuming that the reader is interested in personal growth. Their PhDs were not granted in the field of spiritual growth. books. then we are now in the territory of bonus points. then I urge you to read the Enneagram books of the experts.Chapter 1: Enneagram Basics The Enneagram is a big topic. you are going to learn about some provocative brain research that seems to be revealing the biological foundation of spiritual growth. There are many different ways to approach the boatload of information that describes the Enneagram. Most Enneagram books approach this information from the perspective of self-help. I would recommend the Enneagram authors cited here. If that’s your sole interest. if in addition to this interest. that is not the assumption of this book. the relevant science is neuroscience. I am not expecting you to be engaged in self-discovery. nor do their research grants. Now. or papers seem to mention spiritual growth. Among those books. Some books on the subject run well into the hundreds of pages. This book is directed at the reader who is interested in learning if there is anything to these personality theories.
Without an understanding of these basics. With that. discoveries with disastrous unintended side effects). perhaps these concepts may not seem particularly gripping. That is. little of this book may make much sense to you. this chapter simply steps through the concepts. It’s the reverse of the dynamic informing other scientific discoveries like DDT and Thalidomide (i. This chapter is not geared toward your self-discovery. Standing alone. But first things first. you’ll have to acquire a working knowledge of the Enneagram basics. unless you are an insomniac and your current remedies aren’t working.e. In setting the table.It seems that discovery of the biological foundation of spirituality will turn out to be one of those beautiful unintended side effects that actually benefits mankind. I’ll have to start by boring you stiff. This chapter introduces the main concepts of the Enneagram. So. Before we get there. THE NINE TYPES The fundamental principals of the Enneagram are that there are nine personality types. and that the personality of each of us is of one of the nine 28 . This book aims to trace the nature of this beneficial unintended side effect. before this book can proceed any further. The part that I submit is rather compelling follows once you have become comfortable with these concepts. But you may find that learning these basics is boring to you. I give you Chapter 1. don’t read this chapter when you’re settling down for bed. Its purpose is one thing and one thing only: to set the table for the rest of the book.
aware fear]. and a Two as [pessimism. each of us harbors only one type of personality. if a person is a Five. and so on. The labels used by some leading authors are as follows: Type Two Three Four Five Six Seven Riso/Hudson The Helper The Motivator The Individualist The Investigator The Loyalist The Enthusiast Palmer 2 The Giver The Performer The Romantic The Observer The Trooper The Epicure 29 . pessimism. For example. aware fear/unaware fear]. if a person is a Five. The next two chapters explore some details of this model. and unaware fear. unaware fear]. aware fear. In the usage of the Enneagram. Although this book relies on these mental state descriptions of the types.types. to Nine. Don’t worry if these descriptions seem confusing right now. you will see that an Eight can be described as [optimism. a Five as [optimism/pessimism. The purpose of this exploration is to demonstrate that the nines types can be described as nine different patterns of the following four mental states: optimism. Also. According to the theory. For example. these personality types are assigned numbers: One. The next two chapters will hopefully clear things up. the person is not also a Nine or a Two. he will be a Five from at least early childhood through the remainder of his life. the Enneagram authors instead use common descriptive labels. toward the end of Chapter 3. Two.
I would agree with this criticism. if a person were to sincerely describe us as a “Leader” or “Observer” or “Giver”. most of us would feel complimented rather than insulted. most all of the labels in the above table seem to be complimentary. In the culture of early 21st century America. That is. rather than pejorative. Accordingly. the more vague and indistinguishable the types. A more accurate set of labels for the types might look something like the following: Type Two Label Complaining Martyr 30 . but so would the Enneagram authors. as is explained toward the end of this chapter. they become more and more different.Eight Nine One The Leader The Peacemaker The Reformer The Boss The Mediator The Perfectionist Enneagram Type Labels Critics of the field say that these labels are too vague and ambiguous. For example. one can easily imagine an Observing Leader who leads by Giving. as they move toward the positive. For example. they become more similar. the more positive the labels. Another criticism of these labels concerns their positive spin. the types differ only along the negative vector. These labels are meant to serve only as a starting point for understanding the theory. Conversely. But these positive labels fall short because. as the types acquire characteristics that are more and more negative.
who is also a Complaining Martyr. but at the same time. the Enneagram theory says that we tend to follow the pattern of our own type. To others. For example. the Enneagram authors don’t use them. For most of us. it’s difficult to imagine a Bully. The rest of the time. Although negative labels like these may more accurately distinguish the types. how many of us in present-day America would want to pick up a self-help book telling us that. But when pushed and pressed. at our core. I suspect one reason they don’t is that few would buy their books if they did.Three Four Five Six Seven Eight Nine One Con Man Drama Queen Wallflower Coward Flake Bully Lazy Bum Prude More Accurate Enneagram Type Labels These labels are more distinguishable. 31 . we’re a Coward? Another likely reason the authors don’t use these negative labels is that they seem like permanent judgments even though they’re not that at all. that pattern looks a lot like one of the negative labels above. most of us are just regular people trying to get by. a Wallflower. Although the Wizard of Oz had a lovable Cowardly Lion character. those negative labels describe us only during our relatively rare worst moments.
there is infinite variability of specific personalities. when we are feeling secure. a single child Four. this is not to say that all people of our type share the identical personality. Similarly. A Korean Eight and an American Eight will probably seem rather different in personality.VARIABILITY WITHIN THE TYPES Though each of us is of only one type. when we are feeling insecure. According to the theory. and a last-born Four may well seem different. culture. Three variability factors addressed by the Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books are “security”. A Seven who is feeling secure will seem quite different from a Seven who is feeling insecure. and/or birth order provide variability within Enneagram type. and times of insecurity. and “development”. we 32 . birth order likely affects the shades of personality. we “move into” a different particular personality type. A female One will typically be quite different in many respects from a male One. Similarly. One source of variability within a particular personality type is gender. I would suspect that authors are currently writing about how gender. The next three subsections address these factors. Other dimensions of variability are also probably being pursued. Another dimension of variability is culture. A middle child Four. “wings”. Given the popularity of the Enneagram. SECURITY “Security” concerns how our personalities shift during times of security. Within each type.
33 . when a Seven is feeling secure.move into yet another particular personality type. the Seven moves to Five. The Seven merely adopts Five-like attributes during these times. when insecure. the Seven moves to One. Moving in the direction opposite to the direction of the arrow represents a shift due to a feeling of security. “Moves to” does not mean “becomes”. Note the arrow running from Seven to One. the arrows represent the security “shifts”. This concept of “security” is captured in the symbol that is most popularly associated with the Enneagram. Enneagram Symbol In the diagram. The Seven does not become a Five when secure. For example. Moving in the direction of the arrow represents a shift due to a feeling of insecurity. Note the arrow running from Five to Seven.
fall at different points along the continuum between Nine-with-an-Eight-wing to Nine-with-a-One-wing. at different moments. Nine has wings of Eight and One.”  The popular Enneagram symbol does not capture the concept of wings. Riso/Hudson methodically lays out this aspect of the theory. According to the theory. at the other end. but not common.” “the vast majority of people that we have encountered have a dominant wing. The following diagram attempts to do this. to Nine-with-aOne-wing. For example. every individual Nine falls somewhere along a continuum ranging from Nine-with-an-Eight-wing. A Nine-with-an-Eight-wing is a Nine whose personality is infused with a number of Eight-like attributes. at one end. Although “there may be a number of individuals who are equally influenced by both wings. 34 . A Nine-with-an-Eight-wing will seem consistently different in some significant respects from a Nine-with-a-One-wing. describing how each personality type has two wings.WINGS “Wings” refers to how a personality can straddle two types. A question arises whether an individual Nine can. Riso/Hudson says that this is possible.
Wings Think of this diagram as a dartboard. of particular dominance. The nature of the fear to which the Enneagram applies is both physical fear and ego fear. two different Eights can appear so different as to seem opposite. the levels of fear for each type range from extreme to none. 4 Ego fear is the fear of being disadvantaged. with a particular wing. The personality type is defined by the particular “pie slice” in which the dart lands. The direction and dominance of the wing is defined by how close the dart lands to an adjacent type. we have hit a particular personality type. DEVELOPMENT “Development” is about the level of fear a person is experiencing. Wherever the dart lands. At different levels of development. where that 4 ## see later discussion of basic fears – survival fears 35 . We could toss a dart at the board. According to the theory.
a person wholly without physical fear is not long for survival. If there was no physical danger in this situation. by definition. One possible reason why experts devote so little attention to physical fear is that physical fear complicates the issues. but you still felt upset. But how much physical fear is healthy? In what circumstances? The Enneagram experts do not address these questions. Why? Perhaps it’s because the answers to these questions are tricky and the experts already have a lot of ground to cover in their books. a space has opened up in front of you. not impact our chances of physical survival. If that happened. rather than to physical fear. and increased skin conductance. In contrast. you would likely experience physical fear as evidenced by increased heart rate. and you are in a long line of cars crawling toward an exit. Now say you are driving on a highway. Ego fear is something we can do without and. Say further that you are stopped. say you are driving on two-way street. For example. and a car in the oncoming lane suddenly swerves into your lane and bears down upon you at high speed.disadvantage does not impact physical survival. You lift your eyes to the road just as this other car is pulling in ahead of you. In the meantime. and a car that didn’t wait in the long line merges into the exit lane directly ahead of you. then this would likely be an instance of ego fear. and you take a moment to search for something in your glove box. 36 . Although the Enneagram applies to both kinds of fear. the vast majority of expert analysis in the field is devoted to individual patterns of response to ego fear. Physical fear impacts physical survival.
Because the Enneagram is a theory of both ego and physical fear. the answer would be trivial. then the terminology is quite apt. Significant physical fear – including the corresponding autonomic responses – is probably a healthy response in life-threatening situations. Notably. As a matter of usage. How much fear? Answer: Just as much fear as we feel. At the levels of extreme ego fear. low ego fear is healthy. This book uses both terms – health and ego fear – interchangeably.Or maybe the experts believe if that ego fear could be transcended. But the terminology does not work with physical fear. Answer: Whenever we feel fear. So a personality at a level of extreme ego fear would be called “unhealthy” in the Riso/Hudson framework. Riso/Hudson’s choice of the “health/unhealth” terminology is somewhat unfortunate for capturing the full breadth of the theory. the Enneagram explains and predicts the pathologies that plague individuals and society. High ego fear is unhealthy. If the consideration is limited to ego fear. Riso/Hudson use the term “health” to reference the levels of ego fear. 37 . but no ego fear. this book will use the healthy/unhealthy terminology where appropriate. the theory assigns different pathologies to different types. then these questions about physical fear would have obvious answers. Moderate ego fear is called “average health” and minimal ego fear is called “healthy”. The notion of healthy/unhealthy level of development is among the richest in the Enneagram. When should we respond with fear? If we had only physical fear. Nevertheless.
The following diagram attempts to do this. Similarly. the opposite is true. the Five need not worry about the onset of multiple personality disorder. At the levels of extreme ego fear.For example. while an extremely fearful Five may hide from the world in his isolated cabin as a paranoid schizophrenic. but much more expensive for disabilities resulting from schizophrenia. This is the level of “self-actualization”. At the level of self-actualization. not to mention insurance5. an extremely fearful Eight may well make the nightly news as a cheerful serial murderer. or of experiencing suicidal depression. But at levels of no ego fear. As with wings. the popular Enneagram symbol does not capture development. the costs of disability insurance for a Five would be cheap for disabilities resulting from multiple personality disorder. the various personality types are quite different. the implications on treatment. while an Eight may have little chance of developing schizophrenia. If this aspect of the Enneagram is valid. 38 . the different personality types begin to merge into a single human type beyond the fears of ego. are profound. 5 For exmple.
Under his personality theory. lie the particular classes of mental illness associated with each type. and we toss a dart at it. these needs are: (1) physiological needs (e. at the white dot. the more different the types become. In order. food. The closer to the center. all types begin to merge into a single.Development Again. Maslow proposed that all humans were subject to the same hierarchy of five innate needs. the unhealthier. At the extreme edges. where the grayscale turns black.g. the healthier. the closer to the edge. The closer to the edge. if this diagram is a dartboard. In the center. self-actualized. Mr. 39 . human type. the position of the dart indicates the level of health. SELF-ACTUALIZATION The notion of self-actualization is the point at which the Enneagram begins to overlap with the theories of Abraham Maslow and that branch of psychology known humanistic psychology. water).
(3) belongingness and love needs. So at the healthiest level. According to the Enneagram. common characteristics of self-actualized people include: (a) more efficient perception of reality. All people are thought to progress through the same hierarchy of needs. (c) spontaneity. Mr. Riso/Hudson describe this level as follows: By confronting and surmounting the Basic Fear (which arose in early childhood in the process of ego development). (j) profound interpersonal relations. (k) democratic character structure. This state he called “self-actualization”. (i) social interest. (m) philosophical sense of humor. (n) creativeness. the thicker the filter of illusion for each type.(2) safety and security needs. (d) problemcentered. and nature. (4) self-esteem needs. Mr. (b) acceptance of self. most healthy state for all humans. the healthiest level is called “The Level of Liberation”. and so the types experience the most efficient perception of reality. (e) detachment:: need for privacy. (g) continued freshness of appreciation. others. Maslow’s theory presumes a single. and naturalness. [473-479] The first element – “more efficient perception of reality” – matches the Enneagram’s take on illusion. But like the Enneagram. and (o) resistance to enculturation. Maslow’s theory does not distinguish between different types of personalities. (f) autonomy: independence of culture and environment. simplicity. (h) peak or mystic experiences. the illusion filter is thinnest. Maslow’s theory. the greater the level of ego fear. and (5) self-actualization needs. Under Mr. According to Riso/Hudson’s version of the theory. Unlike the Enneagram. (l) discrimination between means and ends. the person becomes liberated and moves into 40 .
attaining balance and freedom. 41 . self-surrendering indomitable. This is an ideal state. and the individual is at his or her healthiest. self-possessed wise. This choice was made because that is how Riso/Hudson approaches the types. inner-directed life-enhancing. Maslow’s observed characteristics of self-actualized people. particular spiritual capacities and virtues emerge. the list begins with the Two rather than the One.  For each type. life-embracing visionary. Maslow’s theory. altruistic authentic. self-reliant satisfied. In Chapter 3. appreciative heroic. accepting Collectively. 6 When this book lists the types. To the extent there exists a difference between the two. the difference is that. consistent differences still exist among the types even at the level of self-actualization. Riso/Hudson proposes the following behaviors and attitudes for each type:6 Two Three Four Five Six Seven Eight Nine One loving unconditionally. In contrast. different for each type. according to Riso/Hudson. these healthiest Enneagram behaviors and attitudes dovetail nicely with Mr. under Mr. the state of self-actualization is the same for all people. participating courageous.a state of ego transcendence where he or she begins to actualize the essential self. … In addition. you’ll see that this approach is a natural one.
In fact. the Basic Fears are universal – we have all nine of them in us – but the Basic Fear for our own type is more powerful. on page 470. looking for appreciable differences. Assuming we could even find two self-actualized people. Riso/Hudson explains: This fear is the fundamental insecurity that the type is trying to “solve” or at least repress.This difference seems too fine to be relevant. To a large degree. Development proceeds along different levels of fear. This is the “single big box” into which the Enneagram puts the entire human race. but 42 . the core distinction between any two personality types is between the nature of the fear that defines each type. A DOORWAY INTO SCIENCE The concept of development highlights a core aspect of the Enneagram that renders the theory appropriate for merging with science – neuroscience in particular. would they not also be indomitable and self-possessed? If the latter. Perhaps neuroscience can provide the answer. Often. in the Appendix. It is the big box of fear. why not also loving unconditionally and altruistic? And so on. would they not also be wise and accepting? If so. Both Riso/Hudson and Palmer2 make clear that each of the personality types is driven by a particular fear. but not those of another. and more responsible for most of our behavior …. more entrenched. perusing the Riso/Hudson list of behavior and attitudes. If someone is courageous and self-reliant. Toward the end of the book. researchers might be able to closely observe their brains. a person will not be conscious of her Basic Fear. Certainly. it becomes difficult to imagine how a person could harbor the behavior and attitudes of one self-actualized type. There is one specific Basic Fear for each type ….
of not existing. more general fear. to unconscious fear. In a way. and specifically. Riso/Hudson leaves a hanging curveball for evolutionary psychology. Riso/Hudson ends pretty much right there. Riso/Hudson kicks the door wide open into neuroscience. … You can also see these Basic Fears as variations of a more central and pervasive fear found in all of the types – the fear of nonbeing. (emphasis added) In tying the theory to generic fear.will recognize some secondary fears layered over it more readily. But after building up this anticipation. each Basic Fear can be viewed as a particular variation of this deeper. 43 . In characterizing this generic fear as being one of “not existing” (read: “survival”). saying nothing further on the subject of science.
(emphasis added) It’s only page 25 and Riso/Hudson has already thrown up its hands and given the game away to “the ring of truth”. The proof of the Enneagram’s accuracy lies not so much in empirical validation as in its ability to describe people in a way which deepens their understanding of themselves and others. The concept of “Basic Fears” is core to this invitation. Chapter 1 described Types. Basic Fears render the Enneagram both unpopular. on page 25. In the last analysis. But first. AN ERROR Although Riso/Hudson offers an invitation to science at the end of the book. the book begins by backing away from science altogether: Each body of knowledge has its own kind of proof. we need to understand some more concepts before we can go there. and Development. The proof of a proposition about art is certainly different from that of a proposition about history.Chapter 2: Basic Fears As Chapter 1 showed. Yet 445 pages of rigorous. and less amenable to indirect validation via questionnaires. We know that because. either the descriptions of the personality types in this book have “the ring of truth” about them or they do not …. and Riso/Hudson has neatly set the table. Wings. Chapter 2 discusses the notion of Basic Fears. They are what make the Enneagram amenable to direct scientific validation. Basic Fears are at the heart of the Enneagram’s extraordinary power. methodical detail later. we’ll see how these concepts are manifested in the brain. the offer is an unintended one. just as history’s proof is different from that of physics and the other hard sciences. Riso/Hudson ends with a tantalizing invitation to merge the Enneagram with science. albeit 45 . In Part Two. But at the same time.
Given that they are speaking of the same things. Chapter 3 takes care in defining the relevant mental states. and fear. As you are reading this book. the Math Urge says the Enneagram must be subject to empirical validation through PET and fMRI research. pessimism. blood is flowing to certain parts of your brain. This observation focuses on glucose metabolism in the brain. In this area of research. for direct empirical validation. that is the premise of this book. But since that claim may be controversial. so does the Enneagram. findings in neuroscience are emerging on mental states like optimism. then something must be invalid. pessimism. or they are really not speaking of the same things.unintentionally. This activity in your brain is allowing you to read and understand this text. That is. the brains of people are observed in operation. As we’ll see in this chapter and the next. You 46 . I believe they are speaking of the same things. Either PET/fMRI research is invalid. neuroscientists now have a pretty good idea about the activity that is going on in our brain. As we’ll see in Part Two. the Enneagram covers the same ground as does current neuroscience. when we are experiencing these mental states. and fear. Current neuroscience speaks of optimism. If not. At least. or the Enneagram is invalid. and those parts are metabolizing (“burning”) the glucose (sugar) in that blood. PET and fMRI research (described in Part Two) is a paradigm technique of “empirical validation”. PET and fMRI machines record this brain activity.
The second suggestion is erroneous for a different reason. That suggestion is that the Enneagram theory as a whole is not subject to empirical 47 . Interest and activity in both PET/fMRI research and the Enneagram have exploded recently. mentions it. including Riso/Hudson. there was no empirical validation of the Enneagram. then as an approach to observing humanity. Now if the Enneagram cannot be empirically validated through PET/fMRI research. PET/fMRI research seems less likely to be invalid than does the Enneagram. At the time Riso/Hudson was published (1996). even though the two fields are talking about the same thing. So to the extent Riso/Hudson suggested that even “some” of the Enneagram was subject empirical validation in 1996. That some current aspects of either field may be invalid does not doom the whole field. that suggestion was in error. At least PET/fMRI research has the benefit of repeatable “objective” experiments and established peer review. none of the books. then one or both of the areas is invalid. good arguments can be made that some aspects of both fields are invalid. At least. But that is true of any rapidly developing body of knowledge. Both suggestions seem to be erroneous.” This statement suggests that some of the Enneagram’s accuracy does lie in empirical validation. but also suggests that the theory as a whole cannot be empirically validated. Riso/Hudson writes that “the proof of the Enneagram’s accuracy lies not so much in empirical validation.can draw your own conclusions on whether the two sides are talking about the same concepts. If that is the case. As for the validity of PET/fMRI research and of the Enneagram.
Six Fear of being unable to survive on their own. In general. The best we normally can do is to say: “I don’t know if it exists. incapable. In contrast. Three Fear of being worthless. Riso/Hudson said that science “can’t touch this”. The Basic Fears for each type are as follows: Type Basic Fear Two Fear of being unwanted. Riso/Hudson explains that each of the nine personality types harbors a particular Basic Fear.validation. that doesn’t mean the book in untrustworthy in general. This book responds: “Oh yes. of having no support. Seven Fear of pain and deprivation. Importantly. this book relies not solely on Riso/Hudson for describing the Enneagram. Although the Palmer books also describe fear as the root of the theory. But frankly. the Palmer books and Riso/Hudson agree for the greatest part on the dynamics of the theory. In discussing empirical validity. But this suggestion is insupportable. I suspect it doesn’t exist. their analysis of the theory seems most rigorous. Specifically. Riso/Hudson explains this topic in detail. 7 Although Riso/Hudson seems incorrect in its position on science.”7 BASIC FEARS One area in which Riso/Hudson particularly excels is the topic of Basic Fears. In any event.” The bottom line here is that. proving that something does not exist is exceedingly difficult. In addition. unworthy of love. science can. it relies also on the books of Helen Palmer. Five Fear of being helpless. 48 . concerning the Enneagram. I just don’t know. useless. I believe the authors were speaking outside their area of core competence. Four Fear of having no identity or personal significance.
and so can be seen as directly related to it. at the most extreme level. our default state. Certainly. and defective (imbalanced). they correspond closely to ego fears. arise from one’s relations with others. it is useful to think of Basic Fears as social fears. One Fear of being corrupt. Being unconscious of it causes us to perceive the world through the filter of our Basic Fear. This means they are fears that. Nine Fear of becoming lost and separated from self and others. Enneagram Basic Fears Note that these Basic Fears are principally social in nature. it is the way that the type tries to manage its Basic Fear. yet being unconscious of it. is. for the most part. Harboring our Basic Fear. But for all other levels of social fear.  The Basic Desire/Basic Fear split-view illusion for each of the types is as follows: Type Basic Desire Two Loved Three Valuable Four Significant Basic Fear Unwanted Worthless Insignificant 49 .Eight Fear of being harmed or controlled by others. This causes us to maintain an illusion about the world as being divided into two opposites: our Basic Fear and Basic Desire. As such. evil. these social fears become physical fears. it equates to ego fear. according to the theory. Riso/Hudson explains Basic Desires: The Basic Desire is the central motivation for the type. Accordingly.
people. significance is always desirable.Five Competent Six Secure Seven Satisfied Eight Strong Nine Peaceful One Good Incapable Insecure Pained Weak Lost Defective Illusions of the Types To say that these split-views of the world are “illusions” is not to say that they are never true. on the other hand. On the one side the valuable. A fearful Three will apply her split-view of valuable/worthless not merely to financial investments. security is always good. Virtually all of life becomes the parted Red Sea. ideas. If. the investment value falls to zero. illusion creeps in when we assign rigid normative values onto the split-view. First. The game of life for the fearful Three is to swim on the valuable side and bask in admiration. on the other the worthless. insecurity always bad. the illusion pervades understanding because it gets applied far beyond its limited scope. it becomes worthless. Illusion creeps into our processing in at least three ways. relationships. insignificance always undesirable. Value and worth exist in the world. but to everything – experiences. a clever investment in the stock market that reaps profits is a valuable investment. Second. For a Three to believe that the investment is valuable or worthless is not to hold onto an illusion about the world. And so on. To a fearful Six. 50 . So to a fearful Four. For example.
This is because if we were all enlightened and self-actualized. desperate. and so on. This type fails to see that everything is simultaneously strong and weak. each will pursue and defend with desperation and imbalance. Each type will pursue what it perceives as the desirable. Each personality type at the less healthy level will perceive all the world as being divided into the desirable and the undesirable. Heck we might all be saints in such a world. This is the nub of the Enneagram. the greater the errors. UNPOPULARITY But since fear.Third. 51 . these illusions cause us to perceive reality as polar-opposite global absolutes. the entire notion of personality would vanish. errors and other negative traits are born. including himself. and error inform the core of the Enneagram. A less healthy Eight tends to label everything as either strong or weak. it should come as little surprise that the theory hasn’t as yet emerged into popular consciousness. And in this desperation and imbalance. Strong relative to what? Weak relative to what? These are the personality “fixations” of which both Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books speak. the theory has meaning only to the extent we are less than enlightened and short of self-actualized. Moreover. courageous and selfless. Whether a thing is strong or weak depends entirely on the point of reference. desperation. or in error? In other words. How many of us today are willing to see ourselves as persistently fearful. The greater the fear. and defend against what it perceives as the undesirable. rather than as local. We all would be loving and wise. relative phenomena.
But of course. Different Basic Fears result in different kinds of errors and negative traits. different personalities do exist. That is. or even if we understood that. In other words. to apply it correctly. the thicker our filter of ego fear and more distorted our illusions. But if we “insult” ourselves or others in bad faith and out of spite. in their unhealthy states. and we feel antagonistic to ourselves or others. I suspect some. So not only is the Enneagram unpopular because it requires “insults. That is. the less likely we are to understand the Enneagram as a true model. and the types of others. So the more unhealthy we are. but certainly not all. getting to that understanding requires that we “insult” ourselves and others. we not only misuse the Enneagram. unhealthy Fives and Sevens understand the Enneagram well and are able to apply it 52 .But that world is not this world in which we live. I believe the only exception to this dynamic involves the two types – Five and Seven – which. The Enneagram says that what makes these personalities different is the peculiar flavor of Basic Fear that underlies each personality.” It is unpopular also because most of us probably need to be at a sufficient level of health for it to be of use. flee toward the refuge of excessive thinking (see Chapter 3). we tend to make errors. In this world. It is through these errors and negative traits that we are able to understand our own type. the more unhealthy we are. if we type ourselves or others. and thus the more errors we are likely to make. our typing is likely to be erroneous.
Either the Enneagram will be revealed as true and its critics as less than optimally healthy. we are on the threshold of resolving these conflicts. or the theory will be invalidated. and to improve our relations with others. Why did I do that? Why is that person saying what she is saying? If we could understand why. with the advent of machines. the problem must be with the theory. It’s quite another for an impersonal machine to do so. It says to critics of the theory: “You’re just too unhealthy to understand or apply the theory.” Critics respond: “If I can’t understand the theory or apply it correctly. Also. Of course. Which stance is correct? Well. this answer is quite unsatisfactory. 53 . So perhaps the future bodes well for the theory after all. with the advent of PET and fMRI. 8 This may explain the dynamic through which bipolar Sir Isaac Newton (Seven) and schizophrenic John Nash (Five) exhibited intellectual genius. It’s one thing to tell ourselves that we’re unhealthy. and through which the ambitious and litigious Oscar Ichazo (Seven?) conceived of the Enneagram (see Chapter 5). until recently. ENNEAGRAM QUESTIONNAIRES Understanding Basic Fears helps us to understand ourselves and others.” Such is the bane of “pseudoscience”. resolution of this conflict to the satisfaction of Americans was not possible.8 But I suspect the rest of us unhealthy types – types the refuge for which is something other than thinking – are less capable of this. But now.accurately. we might be able to effect useful personal change. perhaps the “insulting” nature of the theory will dampen. or to have other people tell us the same.
except that if I could do that.” There are a number of different methods for typing ourselves. I would tell you where those places are. This book runs into the hundreds of pages. so much as at the parts that rub you the wrong way. look not at the parts of this book that you enjoy. She groups the people according to their type. Palmer puts together a panel of people who understand their own types.How can we learn of our own personality type? This is one of the most difficult aspects of the Enneagram. It’s often quite difficult to identify ourselves as one of the nine types. I have found this method useful for me. Ms. In addition to reading Enneagram books. another method for typing ourselves involves what Ms. But one word of advice: for typing me. I would tell you about the conclusions I have come to concerning my own type. Looking at the world through our own filters. Then the panel people interact among themselves and share their experiences and understandings with 54 . Through this method. Hours of speech serve as a tremendous corpus of data for typing the speaker. But I’m interested in hearing what you think first. This is what is meant above by the illusions of personality. Where in this book am I being disagreeable? Where am I in error? It will be in those places that you will find the seeds of my personality type. my voice speaks for hours. some of what seems reasonable and correct to us comes across to others as disagreeable and incorrect. Palmer calls the “oral tradition”. In it. A common reaction of people who are first introduced to the Enneagram is: “I think I’m a little bit of a few of the types. One method involves reading one or more of the Enneagram books and undergoing self-introspection. I would have corrected the errors and been more agreeable.
Messrs. That is. In this way. instinct serves us well in this case.the audience.enneagraminstitute. it may be less useful. In addition to RHETI. Actually. members of the audience may come to learn about their own types. there are a number of free Enneagram questionnaire/tests available on the Internet.”9 So for some personality types. Riso and Hudson have developed something called the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (“RHETI”). Riso and Hudson have announced that RHETI has been “scientifically validated. RHETI is a questionnaire that suggests one’s likely type based on the answers given. it will get us tested for illegal steroid use. ranging from $0 to $10.” They claim that “[t]he internal-consistency reliability scores indicate that the RHETI ranges from 56% to 82% accurate on the various types ….asp 55 . One can buy the RHETI on amazon.com for $10. just over 50% counts as “scientific validation”. we 9 http://www. But if we win only 56% of our chess matches.560 will not only get us into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Messrs. if something is quick and dirty. We might just look at the data from RHETI. can we conclude that this method is the best? Instinct may suggest the contrary. Since the questionnaires are the quickest and cheapest method. In my view. Batting . The least expensive method involves Enneagram questionnaire/tests. Is 56% a good score? The answer depends on what game we are playing.com/validated. we may not need my view here.
56 .can save ourselves the trouble of preparing our “grand master” acceptance speech. What’s a good score for Enneagram questionnaires? Messrs. If that is so. The RHETI also compares well to the psychometric standard. then it is the purest. Is the problem here with the theory? Or is it with the questionnaires? I believe it’s with the latter. But the Enneagram ought to do much better. by their very nature. All other descriptions are likely just partial. biased descriptions. the NEO PI-R test. on the conscious understanding of the subject. it’s no surprise these other tests bat in the 50% range for some people. then it can’t be a true reflection of human personality. a range of 56% to 82% might seem to suggest that the Enneagram is skewed toward the biases of the types who score at the high end. most true description of human personality. The only difference is that this one was put together by biological psychologists. Further.” The NEO PI-R test is yet another personality theory test. But if the theory is biased toward one or a few types. But the Enneagram is a personality theory built upon unconscious fears. Riso and Hudson say that RHETI’s 56% to 82% range is “solid”: “This is a solid score for a 'forced choice’ format test. It is the argument of this book that these scores are something less than “solid. The problem with questionnaires is that they rely. instead of pop psychologists.” The thesis of this book is that the Enneagram is reflected directly in the workings of the brain. Being partial descriptions.
Conversely. insecure. A test taker cannot provide information about which she is unconscious. the weak are not merely weak. the strong are loved. But the existence and nature of our illusion is unconscious to us. incapable. The problem with this is that by the time we get to secondary fears on one personality type. they start to overlap with the secondary fears of the other types. lost and defective. at peace. This is the nub of the problem with questionnaires. To a fearful Eight. Questionnaire proponents might respond that while a subject may be unconscious of her Basic Fear.Our Basic Fear is unconscious to most of us. as Riso/Hudson explains. as Riso/Hudson puts it. The weak are also unwanted. then secondary fears derived from them may well be even less distinguishable. satisfied. pained. It is almost certainly unconscious to those of us who are Enneagram initiates – the very people who use the questionnaires. significant. 57 . all of the other Basic Fears become swallowed into her own Basic Fear. In this state. This is because. and she does so with desperation and imbalance. insignificant. competent. the “Basic Fears [are] variations of a more central and pervasive fear found in all of the types – the fear of nonbeing. worthless. and good. Harboring our Basic Fear causes us to see more of an illusion. secure. If the Basic Fears are simply different shades of the same color. The fearful personality chases her Basic Desire. and defends against her Basic Fear. valuable. the subject will likely recognize “secondary fears layered over it”. Questionnaires can target these secondary fears. and less of reality. of not existing”.
On the level of the pop questionnaire. the Enneagram is likely no better nor any worse than any of the rest.” Perhaps this also explains scores like 56% “reliability”. But they all fall short. This suggests that the only way that the Enneagram is going to emerge from the noise of the fringe “fads” is through direct scientific validation.Perhaps this explains the common response of Enneagram initiates: “I think I’m a few of the types. In my view. current brain research is all over the sorts of attributes that make up the various personality theories and tests. If not. tucked into the section of the bookstore reserved for “curious fringe ideas”. then let’s all buckle up while history lurches forward. the Enneagram can stay where it is. The world seems over-populated with pop psychology personality tests. 58 . When it comes to personality. or it is not. this means the brain. Either the Enneagram is reflected in the workings of the brain. As we’ll see in Part Two. the Enneagram’s lack of amenability to questionnaires bodes well for the theory. But if it is reflected in the brain.
But these dirt roads are critical because they are the ones that lead us to the brain. At least.Chapter 3: Triads The final piece of the Enneagram puzzle is the concept of Triads. Triads lie at the heart of this argument. This chapter covers Triads. this chapter on Triads introduces the “dirt road” turnoff mentioned in the Introduction. So put on your thinking caps. Triads reveal the fundamental natures of the types. and Basic Fears. Triads are critical to the hypothesis of this book. Although most dense. Development. You might even recognize yourself in here. this chapter is also the most informative on the Enneagram. So the game of this chapter is to carefully step through the Enneagram books. among all the chapters in Part One. In fact. they didn’t talk about these dirt roads explicitly. you should have an intimate understanding of the Enneagram. After this chapter. The first two chapters looked at the other pieces: Types. This book argues that the nine Enneagram types correspond to nine different patterns of default operation of our brains. Wings. and piece together some information on Triads that will be useful in Part Three. 59 . this one is the most dense. Accordingly. The Introduction noted that the Enneagram books are like tourist road maps that don’t show the dirt roads. The point of this chapter is to reveal the dirt roads that the Enneagram authors didn’t talk about.
only two collections are relevant to the hypothesis of this book. Three. I will refer to these two relevant collections as the “Mood Triads” and the “Fear 10 9!/3! ## 60 .WHAT IS A TRIAD? Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books all mention the concept of Triads. Each of these collections describes the Enneagram as three groups of three types. the Enneagram can be described as a collection of three Triads (three times three equals nine). mathematically speaking. Six Seven. Although this table depicts only three different collections. three possible Triad collections A.10 But although thousands of different Triad collections are mathematically possible. Two. Seven One. One. Four. B. Three Two. For example. A Triad consists of three of the personality types. Eight. Eight. Two. Six Four. Five. Three. there are thousands of different possible Triad collections. and Four together comprise one Triad. Six Triad 3 Seven. Nine Nine. Five Triad 2 Four. Nine Three Hypothetical Triad Collections The preceding table depicts three possible Triad collections. Three. For example. and C are: Triad 1 Triad Collection A Triad Collection B Triad Collection C One. Since there are nine types. Eight Two. There are many different ways in which the nine types can be grouped into a collection of three Triads. Five.
common attribute. The Mood Triads and Fear Triads are as follows: Triad 1 Mood Triads Fear Triads Three. Six. and Image. Three. Five. Seven. this attribute is different from the attribute that the types of Triad 2 (One. Seven. Compliance. Seven. “Triad 2”. Four Triad 2 One. Eight). and Withdrawal. One The Mood Triads and Fear Triads At this point. Anger.Triads”. and “Triad 3”. The following two tables depict how these attributes relate to the two Triad collections and the nine types: Mood Attributes Mood Triads Aggression Three. you may be wondering: What’s the big deal with these two Triad collections? The answer involves the substantive meanings of “Triad 1”. Two. Eight Two. Nine Eight. Six) share in common. These two collections are relevant to this book because. For the Fear Triads. Eight Compliance One. What are those attributes? For the Mood Triads. they seem to map nicely to current neurological findings. the three Mood Attributes are Aggression. Nine 61 . Nine. Two. Two. This Triad is relevant because the Three. Six Five. And both of those attributes are different from the attribute that the types of Triad 3 (Four. and Eight types all share a core. as Part Three argues. Seven. Moreover. Five. Six Withdrawal Four. Five. Seven Triad 3 Four. Consider Triad 1 of the Mood Triads: (Three. the three Fear Attributes are Flight. and Nine) share.
They are a dirt road because Riso/Hudson barely skims over them while the Palmer books don’t even mention them. as Riso/Hudson shows. Six. One The Fear Triads and Attributes The following sections drill down on these two Triad collections. Seven Anger Eight. Drilling down on these leads to the hidden “dirt roads” that take us to the brain. Riso/Hudson draws its brief discussion of the Mood Triads from the work of psychoanalyst Karen Horney. The analysis begins with the Mood Triads. THE MOOD TRIADS The Mood Triads represent the first of the dirt roads that take us from the Enneagram to the brain. Four Flight Five.The Mood Triads and Attributes Fear Attributes Fear Triads Image Two. 62 . But her work dovetails rather nicely with the Enneagram. Nine.11 Aggression Triad Threes Sevens Eights “aggressive in the pursuit of their goals and in their competition with others” “aggressive about engaging the environment and satisfying their appetites” “aggressive in asserting themselves against others and the environment” Withdrawal Triad 11 Riso/Hudson at 433-34. Three. Ms. Horney lived well before the recent emergence of the Enneagram.
But the definitions themselves do not come from these books. These clear definitions are based on the text of Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books. into the world of thought” “withdrawn so that others will not disturb their inner peacefulness” Compliance Triad Ones Twos Sixes “compliant to the ideals after which they strive” “compliant to the superego’s dictate to be always selfless and loving” “compliant to the superego dictate to do what is expected of them” Riso/Hudson Links Karen Horney with the Enneagram What exactly do the Mood Attributes – “aggression”.Fours Fives Nines “withdrawn to protect their feelings and their fragile self-image” “withdrawn. These definitions have to do with Basic Desires and Basic Fears. but it falls short in providing crisp definitions. these states have very specific and narrow definitions. this book relies on two mental states: optimism. This book proposes clear definitions for the Mood Attributes. “compliance”. In this book. away from action. These definitions come from my own close reading of these books. and “withdrawal” – mean? The preceding table gives some hints. The splitview illusions for each type are: 63 . and pessimism. Chapter 2 explained that each of the personality types sees the world through the split-view illusion defined by Basic Desire and Basic Fear. In defining the Mood Attributes.
A broader way to state this is that optimists are especially sensitive to receiving social reward. One extra element in these definitions concerns the notion of apprehension. and in particular. For example. pessimism for a Six means that the Six is vulnerable to seeing herself as insecure. In the case of a Seven. The specific kind of social reward to which an optimist type is particularly sensitive is that type’s Basic Desire. “Pessimism” is the opposite of optimism. Stated another way. the Seven’s optimism keeps him awake to opportunities for receiving satisfaction. for example. to receiving the social punishment associated with the type’s Basic Fear.Basic Desire Two Three Four Five Six Seven Eight Nine One Loved Valuable Significant Competent Secure Satisfied Strong Peaceful Good Basic Fear Unwanted Worthless Insignificant Incapable Insecure Pained Weak Lost Defective “Optimism” refers to the tendency of a type to associate the Basic Desire with self. In this book. With pessimism. the type associates the Basic Fear with self. “apprehension” refers to the ability to notice 64 . pessimists are especially sensitive to receiving social punishment.
from time to time. The same holds true for the compliant types (One. “ignorance is bliss”. For pure optimists. For the Mood Triads. these patterns break down along the lines of optimism and pessimism. toward “miserable apprehension”. Six) and for the withdrawn types (Four. Nine). Two. So apprehension can be seen as an attribute of pessimism. Eight) “aggressive” is that each follows the same pattern with respect to optimism and pessimism. Seven. But the patterns for all three are different.“down” moods. Specifically. Five. the definition of these attributes is as follows: Definitions Optimism Aggression Mood Attributes Compliance Withdrawal yes no yes Pessimism no yes yes 65 . both in ourselves and in others. despair. But apprehension does not come with optimism. Now every personality type is capable of experiencing optimism and pessimism. apprehension tracks with pessimism. The pattern of optimism and pessimism for each Mood Attribute defines that attribute. pure pessimists tend the opposite way. They do not include aggressive anger. Down moods include sadness. It is my assertion that what makes each of the aggressive types (Three. But what the Enneagram says is that different types exhibit different patterns of persistent motivation and behavior. and anxiety. According to the Enneagram.
”  “Sevens are buoyed by a belief that life is unlimited. does this mean I claim to be an Enneagram expert? No. each of the aggressive types experiences optimism. Starting with Palmer1. But since the above definitions of the Mood Attributes come from this book. the text of those books do support the definitions. The Aggressive Triad Optimism Valuable: “Life is high energy and happy ….”  “A sense of inner optimism is often bolstered by paying selective attention to positive achievements.”  “Sevens feel superior to others.”  Three Seven 66 . we see that. and avoids pessimism and apprehension.”  “[Sevens] are convinced of their own excellence … .”  “[Threes] live with a sense of confidence in their capacities … . Delving into the books of the experts.”  Satisfied: “They tend to be lighthearted and sunny … . There are always interesting things to do.”  “Seven hold the most optimistic of worldviews … . this is what I meant. we find that this book’s definitions of the Mood Attributes are indeed supported.”  “The skew of attention is toward positive memory. at their core.” [145-46] “There is a likelihood of exaggerated self-promotion … . What I claim is that even though Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books do not explicitly present these definitions. we know enough about the Mood Triads to proceed to the brain research. When I said in the introduction I might be reading these books more closely than most.”  “Sevens have a great deal of energy … . rather than from the statements of the Enneagram experts. Since I am proposing new definitions for the Mood Attributes. these definitions originate from the text of Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books. we must first pause. In other words.Definitions of the Mood Attributes At this point.
”  “Attention narrows to those cues in the environment that will support forward motion toward the goal. but not necessarily felt.”  “A grudge has a way of keeping the game going.”  “If others do not recognize their inner merit.”  “[T]hey suspend their emotions while they work … .”  “Eights are particularly prone to the specific shift of attention that includes only safe information and blocks out the rest. activities can be sandwiched so closely together that there is no time to talk over the issue. then sensitivity is presented.”  Not Pained: “As a defensive strategy. or pin the blame on others. [Eights] have learned … to go toward what gives them pleasure. rationalizing the rejection as no fault of their own.”  When aroused.”  “[I]f an objective failure does occur. Threes redefine the failure as a partial success.”  “Rationalized escapism from difficult or limiting tasks.”  “The preferred state of existence is highly amped.”  Three Seven Eight 67 . planning for the future along the lines of contingency options is intended to enhance life’s pleasures by eliminating the problems of boredom and pain. Sevens will turn to themselves for comfort.”  Sevens “often have difficulty with dependent or needy people. the Eight “becomes oblivious to other people’s reactions … . Waffling on the merits of an opinion … would only serve to erode a strong personal stand.”  Not Weak: “Many Eights live out their lives without looking within themselves to rediscover the tender feelings that they have hidden … . attention narrows to a measuring of [the Eight’s] power against the strength or weakness of an opponent. fully energized forward motion. we are merely waiting it out until we meet again. We haven’t lost yet.”  Non-Pessimism Not Worthless: “Failures are reframed by turning them into incomplete successes … .”  “There will be no feeling of failure if another promising opportunity can be mobilized quickly enough.”  “[Eight] children … have learned to deny their personal limitations in order to appear strong. “the field of perception narrows to a fixed focus on the weak points of the opponent’s defense. The fact that a partner may not be able to shift attention from a painful pattern or to let an emotional grievance go seems like a severe limitation to the optimistic Seven. and people start to look like automatons who are either blocking forward motion or who have something that will serve the work.”  When aroused.”  “[Threes] forget their own feelings … . without being overly concerned about their motivations.”  Three Seven Eight Non-Apprehension Threes “are intolerant of underachievers and those who let their emotions pull them down.”  Eights are “relatively uninhibited and have a good deal of physical energy at their disposal … .”  “If sensitivity is required [in intimate relationships].”  “Under pressure.”  “If a problem surfaces [in intimate relationships].Eight Strong: “[Eights] rarely question their own opinion. An Eight [has the] habit of blaming others as the source of difficulty … .
being oblivious to them. they are about a subjective perception of personal reward and punishment. pessimism. Instead. the compliant types identify with it. and apprehension. optimism and pessimism here have nothing to do with positive or negative feelings about the world in general. he may be a delusional sociopath.The preceding table highlights the precise. yet sees himself in the latter way. Where the aggressive types avoid pessimism. optimism and pessimism in this book concern only personal reward and punishment. and denying personal weakness all seem to him like promoting strength. and contradicting weakness. More accurately. The Compliant Triad Pessimism 68 . and strength. justice. For example. This means he remains ever ready to demonstrate his strength. So blaming others. And where the aggressive types do not apprehend. not budging from certainty in an argument.g. “blaming others” etc. Of course such an Eight wouldn’t characterize his own behavior in such terms (e. To be sure. the compliant types avoid it. Where the aggressive types pursue optimism. For example. But what matters in this book is that he’s an optimistic delusional sociopath. Instead of concerning the world in general.). the compliant types are highly apprehensive. he would claim to be acting in accordance with truth. the less healthy Eight is fully awake to prospects for receiving personal reward. make him an “optimist” and a “non-pessimist” in this book. The compliant types are the opposite of the aggressive types. That he behaves in the former way. narrow meanings of optimism.
because it is dependent upon the regard of others.”  “Ones say that it is very painful to be criticized by others. Innocuous conversations seem laced with negative overtones … . can easily be deflated if attention is withheld. and particularly about making a mistake that would jeopardize survival. and so tend to imagine the worst.”  “Positive attention can spark doubtful thinking: This is a setup or What more do they expect?”  “Sixes are clever about finding ways to circumvent success.”  “[T]here is a systematic lack of attention to personal needs.”  “Shifting attention inward produces a great deal of anxiety for Twos. without realizing that they have not paid equal attention to imagining the best.”  Two Six Non-Optimism Not Good: “[T]hey deny themselves pleasure … .”  “Twos develop an exquisite personal radar for the detection of moods and preferences [of others]. or approval is withheld.”  One Two Six Apprehension One “When anxiety mounts.”  Not Secure: “Anxiety tends to peak as goals materialize. because close contact exposes the fact that the self has been sold out to please others.”  “Their way of paying attention is to scan the environment for signs of anything harmful and to watch people closely for indications of what goes on in their minds. Twos feel punctured. because they are already burdened by self-judgment.”  “How can Ones find themselves right when their own minds measure their best effort against unattainable standards of perfection?”  “A One’s anxiety mounts as pleasurable goals become possible.”  Unwanted: “If their efforts are not recognized.”  Insecure: “Habit of Assuming Worst Case Outcomes”  “Sixes are sensitive to the possibility of worst case outcomes. as if their worth depended on how they stood in other people’s eyes.”  Two Six 69 .”  Sixes “are convinced that an open success will draw the attention of hostile authorities … .”  “[Ones] live with an operating assumption that something about their mannerisms or habits is sure to repel [their intimate] partner. about not deserving to survive.”  “Ones worry about not being perfect.”  Twos have “a feeling of self-importance that.” Not Loved: “There is often a real fear of intimacy. Ones are vulnerable to hearing implied criticism where none is really present.”  “Attention is by habit focused upon the emotional fluctuations of significant others … . which means that self-doubt and procrastination intensify as [Sixes] move toward exposure and success.One Defective: Ones “live with the kind of severe internal critic that most of us would experience only if we had committed a serious crime.”  “Twos are often so repressed with respect to their own needs that they have a hard time knowing what they want … .
The latter case is where non-optimism comes in.A couple of observations on the preceding table merit mention. the 70 . she wouldn’t need to chase love in the hopes of receiving some sign that she is wanted. That doesn’t say anything about how he will react when his Basic Fear is not realized. desperate chase for love. the withdrawn types are pessimists. The non-optimistic nature of the three compliant types causes them to react the same way when they see their Basic Desires approaching: they don’t believe it. and the Two can’t believe she is unconditionally “loved”. Ones are constantly reminded of their “defects” and Sixes of their “insecurity”. Like the compliant types. The Two fears being unwanted. The second observation about the preceding table concerns the difference between pessimism and non-optimism. But Twos seem to be chasing love. and instead sees his Basic Desire approaching. But unlike the compliant types. If the Two already felt wanted. They sabotage their own Basic Desires. They sound like the same thing. In their less healthy states. the Six avoids seeing himself as “secure”. How is chasing love pessimistic? The answer lies in the nature of the Two’s Basic Fear. This second observation is poignant because it highlights the distinction between the compliant types and the withdrawn types. the One can’t see herself as “good”. This indicates a persistent feeling of being unwanted. The pessimist expects his Basic Fear to be realized. The pessimism of the One and Six are unmistakable. but they’re not. But the dynamic of the less healthy Two is the constant. The first observation concerns the nature of the Two’s pessimism.
”  “The underlying reason for avoiding contact is that Fives have practically no defenses against confrontation.”  “They say that merger is implicit in relationships where there is love and that with merger the sense of separation between people disappears.”  “There is plenty of energy to move forward until success begins to materialize.” 357] Describing an extended period of depression. These strike me as particularly interesting types.”  “[T]hey have forgotten themselves … .”  “The containment of energy guarantees a state of equilibrium … .”  Fours subject themselves to “an intense self-criticism for not being worthy enough to have merited love.  Four Five Nine Optimism Significant: “Fours say that the highs and lows of their emotional life open up an intensified level of existence that is beyond ordinary happiness … .”  At Peace: “Believing that their own position will be discounted.”  “The defense tactic of not getting involved in emotional entanglement extends to positive as well as negative emotions. To give up the suffering of a heightened emotional life would mean sacrificing the sense of being special that drama tends to generate. The withdrawn types are simultaneously optimistic and pessimistic. they have learned to incorporate other people’s enthusiasms as their own. a Nine explains: “I was … feeling totally free.withdrawn types are also optimists.”  Competent: “They can live happily alone … .”  “There is a feeling of having lost in life because of some fatal flaw of personality that makes a Four less valuable than those who have been given love.”  “They live with a sense of being easily exhausted by personal interactions. but still wanting to maintain connection.”. [T]here is the sense of being … unique and strangely different … . The Withdrawn Triad Pessimism Insignificant: “Depression is a frequent mood. both committed and still not sure … .”  “The central issue for Fives is the fear of feeling.”  “They love the company of their own minds … .”  “Melancholy is a mood that elevates the life of an abandoned outsider to a posture of unique temperamental sensitivity.”  “[T]heir habits are designed to drain energy … .”  “[Fours] are likely to sabotage real gains.”  Lost: “Nines report that they lose contact with what they want by merging with the wishes of others … .”  Incapable: “They believe that desires and intense emotionality indicate a loss of control … .”  “[T]heir feelings are more available when no one is around to see.”  “Their enjoyment of life comes most easily when they are alone … .”  Four Five Nine Apprehension 71 .”  “The most natural state of mind is to be on the fence.
”  “Nines say that it is far easier to know the inner condition of others than it is to find a viewpoint of their own. and understand about emotional upheaval from a purely mental place … . Feeling insignificant.”  “Fives can relate to others in depth. The withdrawn types have no more solved their Basic Fear through alchemy than the aggressive types have solved their Basic Fear through denying it out of existence. Fours often say that by focusing on someone else’s needs. the Five who believes he is incapable of experiencing emotions in public. The Nine who succumbs to her fear of being lost by merging with others and thus losing herself. succumbing to their Basic Fears seems to realize their Basic Desires. through transforming the lead of their Basic Fear into the gold of their Basic Desire. feels optimistic about it all because merger seems to have bought her the peace and connection she seeks. This isn’t to suggest that the withdrawn types have solved their Basic Fears through alchemy – i. comes home and feels warm and competent in his ability to control his feelings long enough to release them in private.”  Nines are “people who are prone to taking on the feelings of others. the pessimistic Four falls into dramatic depression.Four “[Fours] have unusual stamina for helping others go through intense emotional episodes … . Similarly.”  Five Nine The withdrawn types are extraordinary because the very dynamic of their pessimism is the wellspring of their optimism. they are able to shift attention from their own.”  Fives have the “habit of disengaging from feelings in order to observe. To them.e. 72 . The Four fears insignificance. But the circle is closed when the optimistic Four feels unique and significant precisely because of her dramatic depressions.
What of the compliant types? In their less healthy states. between mindset and illness is not so evident. This often begins as hypochondria at Level 6. is evident. They seem stuck with them. other than persistent anxiety. perhaps Ones disproportionately suffer instead from “major” mysterious illnesses for which no proximate antecedent. I found no reference to psychosomatic illness with respect to the One. For example. instead of regular “smaller” mysterious illnesses of the sort that plague Twos and Sixes. little physical breakdowns which put them in bed for a day or two … . Riso/Hudson states that the unhealthy ego of a Two “inevitably leads to problems with their physical health. Notably. in a One.”  About the less healthy Sixes. 12 ## explain numbering system. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. They do exist. What are the repercussions? One possible repercussion involves psychosomatic physical ailments. That term means only that the genesis of these ailments lies primarily in the way these types think and feel. 73 .12 Getting sick allows Twos to take a break from wearing themselves out for everyone without feeling like a bad or selfish person. the compliant types don’t seem to enjoy even so much as the illusion of having overcome their Basic Fears. What it may mean is that the connection. “Psychosomatic” does not mean the physical ailments don’t exist. Riso/Hudson says that they are “frequently absent from work due to mysterious psychosomatic problems.”  These are the only references to psychosomatic illness I could find in Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books.
with both. But this book follows the approach of the Palmer books. where there is non-pessimism. Riso/Hudson’s approach does not. Meanwhile. the compliant types. there is non-apprehension. Although both Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books mention the Fear Triads. The fundamental point here is that the three Mood Triads differ according to how they approach their Basic Fears and Basic Desires. The aggressive types approach them with optimism. there is apprehension. these books are as skimpy on the Fear Triads as Riso/Hudson is on the Mood Triads. The reason this book follows the Palmer approach is because that approach leads us to the brain. Most of the Enneagram community seems to have followed Riso/Hudson’s approach. Palmer: 13 “Usefulness” here is measured according to movement toward a unified truth. The following table supplements the sparse information in the Palmer books with quotes from an interview given by Ms. and the withdrawn types. 74 . THE FEAR TRIADS The Fear Triads are the second hidden dirt road leading to the brain. with pessimism. Although the approach of the Palmer books on the Fear Triads is the useful13 one.This concludes the discussion of the Mood Triads. For now. apprehension tracks pessimism: where there is pessimism. Part Three will explain the shortcomings of the Riso/Hudson approach. that’s all I’ll say on this difference. each takes a rather different approach to them. We are now ready to drill down into the Fear Triads.
anger is sitting in the room at some level. fear. One Flight Triad Five. However. Anger and image are two different types of fear responses. the 8-9-1 triad is the Enneagram’s place of self-forgetting. The reason this book uses the term “flight” instead of “fear” is that “flight” refers to a particular type of fear response. the flight Triad stands out as the Triad of types that are most aware of their fear. Nines replace their own priorities by merging with many points of view and express their anger indirectly. If you’re dealing with an Eight. Taking approval from others. Four Before we proceed further.” “Centered on the core point of Nine. it is important to note a small difference in terminology between this book and the Palmer books. and these are three image types. the Fear Attributes are three different ways of responding to fear. or One person. Being 75 . Among all three Fear Triads (anger. and image). flight. Palmer2’s choice of the term “fear” to refer to the flight Triad is not surprising. Seven Image Triad Two. and image.“These types manifest anger in very different ways. Ones replace priorities with ‘the correct thing to do’ and recognize their anger only when convinced that they are right. Nine. So.” “These are three very different [flight] types. Eights lose priorities through excessive behavior and express anger to defend what they want.” “The hallmarks of a [flight] type are ambivalence about authority and procrastination. But the meaning is the same. logically speaking. Just the labels are different.” Anger Triad Eight. In other words. any of the three Fear Triads could be called the “fear” Triad. According to the Palmer books. the Fear Attributes are anger. Six. the Performer. Three. Nine. They all have a basis in paranoia. This book uses the term “flight” instead of “fear” to describe the middle Triad.” “The core point of this central triangle is 3. Not just the “flight” Triad.
the flight types respond to fear in a way that more unambiguously resembles what we commonly recognize as a “fear” response. The definitions of these Fear Attributes are as follows: Aware Fear Flight Fear Triads Anger Image yes no yes Unaware Fear no yes yes Definitions of the Fear Attributes As with the definitions of the Mood Attributes. This dynamic is explained below. Those mental states are optimism and pessimism. and image as three different patterns of aware fear and unaware fear. So it is important to demonstrate support in these books for these definitions. 76 . neither are these definitions. these definitions of the Fear Attributes are all we need for proceeding to the brain research. we saw that the Mood Attributes are defined as three different patterns of two different mental states. This section follows the same approach.most aware of their fear. But in this section. the relevant mental states are aware fear and unaware fear. But for now. it suffices to note that Palmer2’s use of the term “fear” to refer to the flight Triad was quite natural. In the previous section. This book defines anger. But just as the Mood Attribute definitions are not explicitly stated in the books of the experts. flight.
loss.” whereas the exuberant. each is doing the very same thing: fleeing as a result of aware fear. as is the nature of the flight that results from the fear. resulting in flight.”  For Sixes. 77 . Nevertheless. each of the three flight types experiences awareness of discomfort. Five “Fives deal with their fear of the environment by retreating from [the world] until they can develop the skill or knowledge to cope with it. this takes the form of “try[ing] to establish support systems in the world that they hope will fend off real world dangers. For example.Starting with the flight Triad.”  Sixes flee by “turning to things outside of themselves as sources of reassurance.”  Six Seven The preceding table shows that the fear experienced by each of the flight types is quite different. Riso/Hudson shows that.” These responses seem diametrically opposite. the inhibited Five “retreat[s] from the world. [R275-76] Five Six Seven .. at their core. each type responds in the same way: flight. uninhibited Seven runs wild in the “external world of activity.” [RH 263] This fear reaches consciousness typically as the feeling of boredom. The Flight Triad Awareness of discomfort … Fives “fear that the environment is unpredictable and potentially threatening. anxiety.” [RH 175] Sixes “are the type which is most conscious of anxiety – ‘anxious that they are anxious’ – unlike other personality types who are either unaware of their anxiety or who unconsciously convert it into other symptoms.”  “Sevens flee from the anxiety in their minds by finding security in the external world of activity.”  This fear reaches consciousness typically as the feeling of lacking the “skills and knowledge they feel are necessary for them to be able to operate adequately in life.” [RH 220] Sevens “are fearful and anxious about their ability to cope with their inner environment – their grief. And in response to this awareness.
attempting to sublimate them in a quest for perfection. sidetracking into other projects.For the anger types. … Anybody interesting enough to excite [the Eight] will be a target ….. self-assertion.. tuning out. 78 .. “[Eights] don’t see that [they’ve] become overbearing or demanding. but the type is unaware of the anger. Nines are famous for waking up to the fact that they’re angry days after the actual event. “Most Eight are distressed to realize that they appear to be physically dangerous. at their core. the response is anger. resulting in anger .” [P 202] .. or passion as a “discomfort”. They look blank when people flinch just because they are yelling. each of the anger types tend toward unawareness of discomfort. so they are able to go about their lives relatively unencumbered by emotional conflicts or self-doubt. the dynamic is quite different from that of the flight types.” [P 231] Eight Nine 14 Note that if you don’t count either tenderness. It flares up quickly and is easily expressed. nor a One.. their instinctual impulses and personal desires. Moreover.. out waiting the enemy. Nine.”  Nine One . that probably means you are neither an Eight.” [P 231] In repressing their instincts. and going stubborn are common tactics.” [P 205] “[The] anger [of Nines] is expressed in indirect and passive ways. Eight For Eights. After they’ve become angry. Ones “becom[e] tense and angry from the resulting conflict. Because the type is unaware of the discomfort. rather than flight.”  “Ones repress the more irrational side of their natures.”  “Much of the aggression of Ones is directed at themselves in a steady stream of self-criticism and demands for better behavior. ‘Why? I’ve never hit anybody!’” [P 206-207] “The actual awareness of anger is usually delayed until long after the provocation took place. The Anger Triad Unawareness of discomfort14 … Eights “repress their own tenderness and vulnerability.”  “[ R]epression protects [Eights] from feeling anxiety about the consequences of their actions. the unawareness continues as these types are slow to recognize their own anger.”  Eight Nine One .”  Nines “repress the ability to assert the self so they can be more receptive to … other[s]. Slowing down. Riso/Hudson and Palmer2 show that. “Anger is the emotion of choice.
The Image Triad An idealized self-image … Two Three For Twos. the image types instead respond as the anger types do.’)” [RH 379] One As with the different ways in which the flight types flee. But instead of fleeing in response to this awareness. As with the flight types who are aware of their fears. When their anger is brought to their attention. the self-reproaching One engages in a “steady stream of self-criticism”. (‘I’m not angry! I’m just trying to get this right. and the calm. the image types are unaware of their own hostility.” [P 231] “Ones are often unaware of their anger. at their core.actual event. both aware and unaware fears come into play. And like the anger types. whereas the explosive and belligerent Eight directs “easily expressed” anger at a “target”. Ones often respond with a disclaimer. each of the image types clings to an idealized self-image that is constructed in reference to others. each is doing the very same thing: expressing anger. With the image types. and thus slow to recognize it. the ways in which the anger types express their anger differ markedly. the image types are all aware of when their self-image fails them. almost catatonic Nine “slows down” and “goes stubborn”. Riso/Hudson and Palmer2 show that. the situation is even more complex than it is for the flight and anger types. For example. and almost always underestimate the degree of it.  79 . Despite these radical differences. They respond with hostility. For the image types.”  For Threes. it’s the “’selfless’ self image. it’s the “winner” self-image.
… All you know is that it hurts to see someone else hold center stage.. … It hurts to be nobody in the crowd. Twos “conceal their aggressions not only from others..Four For Fours. and everything else is irrelevant.  “[A]verage Threes are competitive with the very people from whom they want admiration. All you know is that … it’s hateful to be surrounded by people who have less depth [i.” [P 89] see discussion below Two Three Four 80 . All you know is that rejection feels like annihilation …. They can’t stop to listen..”  Three Four Awareness of the image failing … Palmer to the Two: “You don’t know that you have forgotten your owns needs and have altered self-presentation. it’s “a self-image which heightens their uniqueness..”  Three Four .”  Palmer to the Four: “You don’t know that you selectively focus on the positive aspects of distant relationships. Two Twos “becom[e] … resentful” toward the people they were trying to win over with their “selflessness.”  Two Three Four .e..”  “[T]he liability [of a competitive edge] is a faulty feedback system.”  “Fours … derive a stronger sense of self by seeing how different they are from other people. Competitors act on partial information. held in reference to others. while.. You see the cues that concern the goal.”  . resulting in hostility .” Fours do this because they “are always becoming conscious of all of the ways in which they are not like their idealized self. … Unhealthy Twos become capable of acting both very selfishly and very aggressively. but also from themselves. “ordinary” people] but somehow manage to be happy.” [P 63] Palmer to the Three: “You may not be aware of slipping into the role of a valued performer..” [RH 100] As with Ones who direct their anger primarily to themselves. in their minds. Fours primarily “direct their hostility at themselves.”  “Threes look outside themselves to determine what … qualities are valued by the people that matter to them … .. but the type is unaware of the hostility.”  Threes ramp up their unhealthy competition with others. they are neither selfish nor aggressive. Two “Twos look primarily outside of themselves to other people for validation of their ‘selfless’ self-image.
Ones and Fours are two of the three personality types that are prone to major depression. that the Four does not also fit the pattern of these other types with respect to hostility. Just that the most common direction is inward. That does not mean. 81 . The reasoning behind these beliefs follows. The hostility of the Four. both Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books are silent on this question. But for the Four.As for the Four. Both the self-directed anger of the One. serve as the root of depression. Only after the hostility is well on its way do these types become aware of it – if at all. is primarily directed at self. Moreover. Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books makes clear that this hostility starts out unawares. rather than toward others. like the anger of the One. I believe that the failures of Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books to mention it were mere oversight. however. I believe that the Four does follow the same pattern. Depression has long been understood as an expression of self-directed anger. and the self-directed hostility of the Four. For all but the Four. According to Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books. All of the anger and image types become hostile as part of their core dynamic. it is the only type among the three anger and three image types for which neither Riso/Hudson nor the Palmer books explicitly spells out the unaware genesis of the hostility. It’s not that the hostility is never directed toward others.
choose with full awareness to become depressed. depression “seems to run its course and lift of its own accord. But that would contradict the apparently mysterious origin of their depressions.”  If depression appears to lift of its own accord. the core dynamic of the Four includes unaware fears. we will assume that the Four’s self-directed hostility at least starts out unawares. Because if it started with awareness. Choosing to go into it is quite another. It bears noting at this point the relationships between the mental states and the Triad attributes. Under those definitions. we saw that Fours take pride in their depressions. Compliance results from self-centered pessimism.15 It seems instead that depression just creeps in apparently unannounced. Withdrawal was a more complex notion. then Fours would soon be able to rationally tie the onset of their depressions to their self-directed hostility. So. for the purposes of this book. as with all anger and all image types. including Fours. together with self-centered non-optimism. 82 . then it seems safe to assume that the Four’s self-directed hostility at least starts out as an unaware fear of the Four. If that is true. They see their depressions as evidence of their significance and uniqueness. Accordingly. do not.It seems reasonable to assume that people. combined with self-centered non-pessimism. 15 Earlier in this chapter. in general. “Spinning” your depression positive after it has lifted is one thing. With the Mood Triads. But this is an after-the-fact dynamic. then it seems safe to assume that it would also appear to arrive of its own accord. we saw that the definitions of aggression and compliance had an intuitive feel. aggression is the result of self-centered optimism. Palmer2 says that for Fours.
This is a profound insight offering 83 . 3X3=9 Riso/Hudson explains that the Enneagram is. In biology. it is because the Enneagram is a dialectical system. or two dialectically related groups of three.Withdrawal results from both optimism and pessimism. Fight would seem to correspond to the anger attribute. These. and one can’t outrun the attacker. are only speculations. That these triads can be defined this way is supported by the text of Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books. … If there is a single explanation of why the Enneagram works as it does. Image is the result of both aware and unaware fear. Perhaps the intuition of this dynamic concerns the notion of negotiation. The key point of these last two sections was to observe that the Mood Triads and the Fear Triads can be described as patterns of a small number of mental states. Perhaps those two dynamics cancel each other. and not twelve or sixteen? Because nine is three times three.  Why does the Enneagram have nine fundamental types. resulting in behavioral withdrawal. a theory based on the intersection of two Triads sets: The reason there are nine personality types in the Enneagram is that its structure is the result of a three-times-three arrangement. of course. anger the result of unaware fear. at bottom. That is. and why it is such a comprehensive system. With the Fear Triads. Flight is the result of aware fear. Image is more complex. if one can’t fight the attacker. the classic fear responses are fight or flight. and as such it can be used to analyze different aspects of human nature dialectically. the same intuitive feel exists. flight to the flight attribute. then the only choice left may be to negotiate with the attacker. Some biology texts include a third fear response: negotiation.
and the brain is nowhere to be found. and instinct to describe the Fear Triads. and a new Triad collection that I’ll call the “Expression Triads”. The Expression Triads are as follows: Expression Attributes Over-Expression Under-Expression Most Out of Touch With Three. Four. Recall from earlier that the 84 . Nine Expression Triads One. the next questions are: Which first three? Which second three? These questions serve as the crossroads between the Enneagram and the brain. Eight The Expression Triads and Attributes Accordingly. Of course. once we know that nine is three times three. Take a wrong turn here. thinking.elegant parsimony to the theory. Five. Seven Two. Six. And parsimony brings with it the distinct whiff of science. Riso/Hudson describes the Enneagram as the intersection of the Fear Triads with the Expression Triads: Expression Triads Over-Expression Under-Expression Most Out of Touch With Three Six Nine Feeling Fear Triads Thinking Instinct Two Five Eight Four Seven One Note in the above table that Riso/Hudson uses the attributes feeling. The two Triad collections selected by Riso/Hudson to describe the Enneagram are the Fear Triads.
the 16 ## I tried thinking about “over” and “under” as glucose metabolism – but it doesn’t work. Without going in to detail at this point on Riso/Hudson’s approach. it suffices to note that that approach is passable for the purpose of describing the Enneagram. Chou introduces an altogether new Triad collection: (Two. thinking. “under-expression”. Riso/Hudson does a decent job of showing how the above 3x3 matrix reasonably describes the nine types. But the problem is that there’s no apparent way to go from this matrix to the brain. Eight) Let’s call this collection the “Chou Triads”. 85 . As we’ll see in Part Three. Mr.16 Perhaps someone else can see the match. As of today. and “most out of touch with”. nothing comes to my mind matching these attributes with anything coming out of current neuroscience. Like Riso/Hudson. If one exchanges the One with the Seven. Three. flight. they don’t seem to. these attributes may fall out of the research. however. The Riso/Hudson 3x3 matrix is not the only one proposed in the field. Note that the Chou Triads are very close to the Mood Triads.Palmer books (and this book) instead use the attributes image. Mr. feeling. and anger to describe the same Triads. Or perhaps there is no current match. Seven) (Four. and instinct don’t lead to the brain. Internet commentator Tom Chou has proposed a different one. In other words. Five. As for “over-expression”. But instead of intersecting these with the Fear Triads. Six. Nine) (One. as neuroscientific techniques improve. Chou uses the Expression Triads. but in the future.
Mr. the point here is to highlight the fact that the Enneagram is generally recognized as a 3x3 matrix. Chou’s 3x3 framework is significantly different from that of Riso/Hudson. Mood Triads of Aggression. In any event. Palmer or Messrs. and Compliance (Riso/Hudson via Karen Horney) 2. Do the Enneagram experts explicitly state this conclusion? Not to my knowledge. The Enneagram is a 3x3 matrix (Riso/Hudson) The logical conclusion to draw from these three expert statements is that the Enneagram can be described as a 3x3 matrix defined by the intersection of the Mood Triads and the Fear Triads. Chou’s 3x3 not to comment on its usefulness. I bring up Mr. Instead. and Image (the Palmer books) 3. Withdrawal. At least I can find no indication that Ms. Fear Triads of Anger. But which 3x3 matrix is the relevant one that will take us to the brain? MOOD X FEAR = ENNEAGRAM To this point we have seen that the Enneagram experts have described the following: 1. Flight. I need only apply my abilities to read and to 17 ## people on the web who are students of Riso/Hudson who mention this 3x3 86 .17 Does this mean I must be an Enneagram expert to state this? No. Riso or Hudson has stated this conclusion.Chou Triads become the Mood Triads. As the Introduction to this book explains.
if the definitions of the Mood Attributes and Fear Attributes are dirt roads. irritable • • • 18 Riso/Hudson says that the Enneagram is a 3x3 matrix but makes clear that it doesn’t matter which 3x3 you use. we arrive at an efficient and powerful description of the Enneagram. this step is probably a donkey path. I would bet that this is the step that the curious neuroscientist would most likely miss in her search for the road to the brain.logically reason to arrive at this statement. Once you select the Mood Triads as your first set that limits the possibilities for the second set to 36 (= 3! x 3!) possibilities. swaggering • • Withdrawal Nine withdrawn anger Mediator. Hence the need for this book. On with the analysis. Peacemaker “To maintain things as they are – to be undisturbed (out of the flux of life)” selective attention. and the Basic Desire and a pair of typical attitudes in average heath20. Leader “To convince themselves and others of their centrality and importance (to feel important)” expansive. Aggression Eight aggressive anger • Anger • Boss. Reformer “That everything in their life be consistent with their ideals” impatient. each combined attribute is associated with the type name19. The following table multiplies the three attributes of the Fear Triads with the three attributes of the Mood Triads. 19 ## from both palmer and riso/hudson 20 ## r/h 476-493 – level 5 87 . If I had to bet. 18 This step is the final dirt road to the brain. Hence. Among those possibilities are the Fear Triads. passive-aggression • • Compliance One compliant anger Perfectionist. In fact. Mood x Fear logically follows as a valid representation of the Enneagram according to the experts. Putting together the Fear Triads and the Mood Triads. Specifically. It then cross-references each of the resulting nine combined attributes with information from Riso/Hudson and Palmer2. This conclusion logically follows from the statements of the experts.
THE TASTY SAUSAGE Drilling deeper. pressured Two compliant image • • Giver.” cautious. we can pull out the mental states that correspond to the Fear and Mood Triads: 88 . Particularly. thrill-seeking • • • passive-aggression Five withdrawn flight Observer. Helper “To be needed – to make themselves necessary to others” “self-sacrificing”. premeditated • • Four withdrawn image Romantic. worrying feel Three aggressive image • Image • Performer. Motivator “To create a favorable impression of themselves (to impress)” “rehearsed”. Individualist “To be reassured of others’ interest and concern for them (playing ‘hard to get’)” self-referential. the table illustrates well the three very different ways in which each Fear Attribute is expressed. intense • • • Six compliant flight Trooper. Investigator “To shut out intrusions (by intensifying their mental activity). as well as the three very different ways in which each Mood Attribute is expressed.swaggering Seven aggressive flight • • Flight • Epicure. Enthusiast “To keep themselves excited and occupied – to stay ‘up’” indiscriminate. self-conscious • • • Enneagram = Mood x Fear The preceding table shows how the combined attributes dovetail nicely with the brief descriptions of the types. Loyalist “To resist having any further demands or obligations placed on them (to assert themselves without appearing to do so).” abstracting.
The above table is the tasty sausage of this chapter. But the result of the nasty sausagemaking process is one tasty sausage. the primary purpose of the rest of the chapter was to explain the reasoning for the above table to Enneagram proponents interested in the genesis of the table. Now that we have the sausage. we’re done with all that. Few of us want to see it. In fact.Aggression Eight Anger • • • optimism non-pessimism unaware fear Seven Flight • • • optimism non-pessimism aware fear Three • Image • • • optimism non-pessimism aware fear unaware fear • • • • • • • • • • Withdrawal Nine optimism pessimism unaware fear Five optimism pessimism aware fear Four optimism pessimism aware fear unaware fear • • • • • • • • • • Compliance One non-optimism pessimism unaware fear Six non-optimism pessimism aware fear Two non-optimism pessimism aware fear unaware fear Enneagram = Nine Patterns of Four Different Mental States The preceding table is the fundamental purpose of this chapter. don’t worry. That is. If this chapter seemed confusing to you. the entire lengthy and detailed discussion of this chapter is like the process for making sausages. The hypothesis of this book is that the Enneagram is reflected in the current findings of neuroscience. Key to this hypothesis is the argument of this 89 .
How can such an elaborate theory be described in such simple fashion? This question is of the same nature as the core question posed to all theories of personality. That common answer is the following: complex and elaborate bodies of information tend to reveal patterns. some Enneagram proponents will criticize this “boiling down” of the theory to these four mental states. These patterns of states are to the types what fingerprints are to humans. Undoubtedly.chapter that the Enneagram can be described as nine patterns of four different mental states. Namely: How can personality theories be true when each of us is a unique individual? The answer to this second question is the same as the answer to first one. it helps to boil down the points of comparison to the minimal few that still aptly describe both bodies of knowledge. and unaware fear. But what about the “why”? The reason for reducing the Enneagram to these nines patterns of four mental states is to enable comparison between the Enneagram and the current findings of neuroscience. With this small number of “moving parts. as do the Enneagram and neuroscience. This doesn’t mean the entire Enneagram theory can be described by nine different patterns of four mental states. the information would tend toward incoherence. These states are optimism. pessimism. If they didn’t. much simpler descriptions of the elaborate body. Just as fingerprints don’t equate to the whole 90 .” comparison is made more readily. But these patterns are. aware fear. When two bodies of knowledge use very different language and employ very different approaches. by definition. This explains the “how”.
However. the mental state patterns don’t equate to the nine types. So these patterns are useful for comparing the Enneagram with neuroscience. Triads A COMPLETE MAP The popular Enneagram symbol is one example of how some experts in the field have taken the theory and driven it into an obscure cul-de-sac. at least as far as science is concerned. As with wings and development. these patterns uniquely identify the types. the popular Enneagram diagram does not capture the triads. The symbol appears on the cover of virtually every 91 . The following diagram attempts to do this. just as fingerprints uniquely identify humans. to draw connections to the brain. and to the other chapters of Part One. Part Two looks into the neurological bases of these mental states.person. Part Three circles back to above table.
The neuroscientist would need additional maps. The full set of Enneagram maps would include maps of security. wings. she would not get there. and triads.Enneagram book and on every Enneagram web site. Enneagram Symbol Yet even the experts in the field who promote the symbol recognize that it represents only one aspect of a much more elaborate theory. development. If a neuroscientist tried to use the Enneagram symbol as a map to the brain. It would be like trying to use a map of New England to get to Los Angeles. Great attention is paid to its mysterious origins and to its “living. It reflects neither wings nor development nor triads. The symbol depicts the Enneagram concept of security. 92 . moving” properties.
The following map attempts to consolidate all four critical Enneagram concepts. 93 . four maps may be cumbersome to carry with us.Security Wings Development Triads Of course.
A Comprehensive Enneagram Map 94 .
Part Two: The Seat of Personality .
DNA. “return to essence”. These concepts were then analyzed for the purpose of squeezing out of the Enneagram four fundamental notions: optimism. In describing the Enneagram.Chapter 4: A Primer on the Brain This chapter marks a transition in this book. 97 . triads. development. These key concepts include the triune brain. pessimism. this book has introduced the fairly straightforward concepts of fear. and wings. While Part One shows how these notions fall out of the Enneagram. The transition is from everyday English language and concepts. and unaware fear. brain asymmetry. But to understand how neuroscience treats these notions. genes. The Introduction said that this book serves as a vehicle for translating and matching the Enneagram and neuroscience. There. we need to learn a whole new language. These latter notions are the lynchpin of this book. security. glucose metabolism. to the specialized language and concepts of neuroscience. aware fear. Part Two shows how they relate to neuroscience. and “spiritual work. prefrontal cortex. amygdala. At least we need to learn some key concepts in this new language.” But as you’ve seen. I said that the Enneagram authors tend to speak in terms of esoteric concepts like “growth dialectic”. this book has pretty much steered clear of that sort of language in describing the Enneagram.
brain plasticity. you may want to skip this chapter. much of this list may seem like Greek to you. Other bodily organs include the heart. the liver to detoxify the body. and the lungs to process the air we breathe. you may want to read it to check whether the foundation of this book’s hypothesis is solid. this chapter offers a primer on the brain. If you are unfamiliar with neuroscience. the brain serves as the master controller for the entire body. “metabolism” from the Greek word for “change”. PET. the brain has a specific function. If you are a neuroscientist and these concepts are familiar to you.” BRAIN AS THE BODY’S MASTER CONTROLLER The brain is one of the organs in our bodies. and “plasticity” from the Greek word for “molded. “glucose” from the Greek word for “sweet”. Chapter 1 introduced the Enneagram basics. “gene” from the Greek word for “born”. But as our mothers used to say to us: “I know it tastes bad. Alternatively. fMRI. As with these other organs. the same may hold true for this chapter. Where the heart serves to pump blood. and EEG.” 98 . and the lungs. you need to read this chapter to understand the rest of this book. but it’s good for you.21 The remaining chapters of this Part will rely on these concepts. For example. the voluntary typing action of my fingers on this keyboard is being driven by my brain.neurotransmission. “neuro” from the Greek word for “string”. the liver. But for everybody else. the 21 This would be appropriate because “amygdala” comes from the Greek word for “almond”. Just as Chapter 1 may have seemed less interesting than other chapters. But also. Our brains constantly monitor the functioning of every corner of our bodies. They also play a principal role in driving the activity going on in our bodies. This includes conscious activity.
Common pictures of the brain resemble a gray lump of cottage cheese. discussions about its various parts can become complex. metabolism. Finally. Although it may seem from these pictures that the brain is entirely made up of this cottage cheese. Like an onion that is composed of various layers. kind of like a toy truck constructed of Lego blocks. the outer layer. To simplify things. digestion. this not the case. The multiple layers of the brain are grouped into three principal structural layers: base. limbic system. it helps to look at these parts from three different viewing perspectives: layers. THE TRIUNE BRAIN The brain is a three-pound organ resting inside our skulls. so the brain is also made up of layers. The first viewing perspective concerns the layers of the brain. This book focuses on only a few aspects of the brain’s functioning. heat rate. it consists of reasonably discrete parts connected together. the cerebral cortex. to one extent or another. immune functioning. under the master control of the brain. The cerebral cortex is a relatively thin layer covering the rest of the brain like a 99 . For example. Instead. On top of and enveloping this base is the so-called “limbic” system. hemispheres. covers the limbic system. and cerebral cortex. Specifically. and breathing are all. this book looks closely at the brain’s control of mood and fear. This “cottage cheese” is the cerebral cortex. But this organ is not an amorphous three-pound blob. and regions. The base of the brain is situated on top of our spinal column. This is the middle layer.brain controls unconscious activity in the body. Since the brain is a three-dimensional object. This is the deepest of the layers.
but rather reddish in color. Moreover. in a living brain. Specifically. and the cerebral cortex to thinking. It was thought that these discrete structural layers also corresponded to discrete functions. 100 . they also did quite different things. mammals have both the base layer and the limbic system.” you will be presented with many pages describing this triune hypothesis. and the cerebral cortex “human”. Because dead brains don’t function. it was assumed that this triune brain did not merely comprise discrete structural layers. “Triune” just means “being three in one.” Before the recent invention of advanced brain technologies that allow detailed study of living brains. This three-layer system is known in the literature as the “triune” brain. This is because living brains are infused with blood. This earlier line of thinking was based on studying the dead brains of dissected animals. This is why. This early line of thinking held that the base of the brain is “reptilian”. the limbic system to feeling. if you perform an Internet search for “triune brain thinking feeling instinct. “tradition” has it that the base of the brain corresponds to instinct.skull cap. the limbic system “mammalian”. and humans are uniquely blessed with all three layers. And the structure hinted strongly at a “triune” brain with distinct function corresponding to the apparently sharp differences among the various animal species. it was thought that because these layers looked quite different from each other. but not the cerebral cortex. this skull cap is not gray. In other words. The notion was that reptiles possess only the base layer in their brains. all that was available for studying at that time was structure.
is that this hypothesis has proven incorrect. However. simplistic function. at 129-128 (“Sin 1: Affect [emotion] and cognition [thinking] are subserved by separate an independent neural circuits [different regions of the brain]. The new brain technology of the last few decades has swept the earlier “triune brain” hypothesis into the dustbin of discarded scientific notions. and perhaps solely.The problem. the three layers are structurally different. scientists now have the ability to understand brain functioning. But functionally. LeDoux makes clear that the systems in our brains that process and generate emotions and feelings span both the cerebral cortex and the limbic system. See also “Seven Sins in the Study of emotion: Correctives from affective neuroscience”. emotion] is subcortical [i. Because this recent technology is able to study living brains at a cellular level. The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life and Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are. In his books.22 Indeed. LeDoux has authored a pair of recent books. Thus “feeling” cannot be said to be a “limbic system” function. This is especially clear for the mental activity of feeling.”. and instinct.e. the layers work together to perform thinking. What this recent research shows is that the triune brain is a fiction from the point of view of gross. Joseph LeDoux of New York University is among the world’s leading researchers on the neuroscientific basis of emotion. “Sin 2: Affect [i.”) 101 . Mr. the conscious component of feeling – i. So the triune brain is not particularly useful as a functional concept. Brain and Cognition 52 (2003) 129-132. 22 The Emotional Brain at 98-102. These books summarize his research and synthesize the field. Mr. it remains an accurate notion. as a structural description of the brain. limbic]. feeling. Sure. the state of being aware of our feelings – is likely found principally. in the cerebral cortex. however.e.e.
human” triad. these phrases were often meant to refer only to the cerebral cortex. In other words. As noted. and the “right hemisphere” of the brain. 102 . and that non-human mammals lack cerebral cortices. and the villain runs a skill-saw down the middle of our forehead. The cut cleaves our head in half. But each layer is developed to different degrees for each animal. with one ear attached to each half. It’s like a walnut split cleanly in half along the seam of the shell. The cleave would reveal two “mirror-image” halves of the brain. 23 The fundamental point here about the brain layers is that brain function is much more complex than the relatively simple brain structure. “left brain” referred to the left half of the 23 The Emotional Brain at 98-102. Indeed. These two halves are referred to as the “left hemisphere” of the brain. studying function reveals the brains of humans to be much closer to the brains of other animals than was previously thought in many circles. This existence was confirmed through the microscopic study of living snake brains. the terms “left brain” and “right brain” are used. Let’s say this is a horror movie.The other reason the triune brain concept is not useful concerns its “reptilian. it does exist. Recent research has demonstrated these assumptions to be incorrect. All vertebrates have all three layers. Humans possess by far the most developed cerebral cortex. this concept assumes that reptiles do not have limbic systems or cerebral cortices. HEMISPHERES The second viewing perspective concerns the two halves of the brain. mammalian. In the past. Although the cerebral cortex of the snake is largely undeveloped. More simply.
However. “Hemisphere” literally means “half of a sphere. the landmass can be divided into different countries. Beyond the cerebral cortex and the limbic system. But at a next level of analysis. As with a map of the world. These states can be divided into counties. All of the landmass can be considered one big collection of land. the towns and cities into streets. Indeed. each defined by a border. the streets into properties. Not only are the two halves of the brain different in function. these two halves develop at different rates during fetal and infant development. Deeper still. Recent studies have emerged showing that the limbic system does seem to exhibit subtly different function for the left and right sides. Each layer of the brain is composed of different.cerebral cortex. The limbic system was considered to be more unified in function. the counties into towns and cities.” “Asymmetry” means “not identical”. for the 103 . It’s like a map of the world. Small differences in shape and size have been observed between the left and right sides of the brain. the regions and sub-regions and sub-subregions are far too many to comprehend in one sitting. and so on. even though it is also structured as two halves. they are also not structurally identical. asymmetry has also been observed in the base of the brain. REGIONS The third and final viewing perspective concerns the regions of the brain. most countries can be divided into states or provinces. This top-down methodology is similar to how the regions of the brain are classified. Different function for each half is called “hemispheric asymmetry”. fairly discrete regions.
the right prefrontal cortex just above our right eye. In a similar way. the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala are not the whole movie when it comes to mood and fear. and aware and unaware fear (amygdala and prefrontal cortex). many other lesser characters are required to fill out the whole movie. As with the prefrontal cortex. The amygdala is a region of the limbic system. Still. the left amygdala about one inch inside our left temple. Many other regions in the brain 104 . Indeed. The reason this book focuses on the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala is that current research shows these two regions playing the biggest roles in processing and generating the mental states of optimism and pessimism (prefrontal cortex). The right amygdala lies about one inch inside our right temple. we will be looking at only two regions of the brain: the “prefrontal cortex” and the “amygdala”. Movies tend to feature many different actors playing many different roles. But in most movies. “amygdala” is the Greek word for almond. THE PREFRONTAL CORTEX AND THE AMYGDALA The prefrontal cortex is a region of the cerebral cortex. They have the most lines. The left prefrontal cortex sits just above our left eye. the amygdala consists of a left half and a right half. Each half resembles an almond. and the plot centers around their characters. These two almonds lie inside our temples. Actually the region is composed of a left half and a right half. This region is located in the front of our foreheads.purposes of this book. there are only a couple of major stars who play the biggest roles in the movie.
If the system works as intended. nobody comes into the U. pessimism. The nucleus is a discrete.collaborate with these two “starring” regions to process and generate these mental states. The cell wall is like the immigration authorities at the U. A neuron is a particular kind of cell. Communication between cells is accomplished by the passage of particular molecules in and out of the cell wall. To understand this. The outer boundary of the cell is defined by a wall. and unaware fear.S. The cell wall encloses the entire cell. But to understand neurons. border. enclosed region floating within the bounds of the cell 105 . the cell wall watches closely to ensure that only appropriate molecules pass into the cell. without showing proper papers. Every cell also contains a central command center known as the nucleus. But it doesn’t say how these regions do this processing and generating. we first need to understand cells. Similarly.S. Every cell in our body is a discrete structure. aware fear. we need to understand neurons. Chapter 6 to the amygdala. So this book trains its focus on the stars of the show: the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. The human body is made up of billions of tiny cells. Chapter 5 is devoted to the prefrontal cortex. Some people are denied entry. CELLS The preceding section says that the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala play the lead roles in “processing and generating” the mental states of optimism. But discussing all of these “supporting” regions would increase the complexity of the discussion without improving it.
DNA DNA (“deoxyribonucleic acid”) is like a master set of recipe books for the entire body. In the language of computer science and compilers. this is called “syntax parsing.” Finding the words and sentences that correspond to a particular trait is no easy feat. Previously. Every month it seems we read about the discovery of the “gene for trait X”. That is. What this means is that the “words and sentences” in DNA that generate trait X may have been isolated. this is the classic “needle in the haystack” problem. What that means is that if human DNA is like a set of recipe books. this step is known as “semantic analysis. In computer science.” The next step is to figure out what the sentences and words mean. Inside the nucleus of every cell in our bodies is a twisted pair of long molecules known as “DNA”. At the current state of technology. Scientists all over the world are racing to decode the genome. the Human Genome Project announced that it had mapped the human genome. This is an enormous collection of information. But the project figured out how to properly break up this stream into sentences and words.wall. the project identified the sentences and words that make up those books. Recently. 106 . DNA contains all the instructions necessary for generating and operating our entire body. the words and sentences were not apparent. DNA seemed to be just a virtually endless stream of characters. The few words and sentences that generate the trait are the needle amidst the haystack of the billions of words and sentences that make up DNA.
The opposite of genetic in this regard is the notion of “environmental”. What about ourselves can we change? And what. such as eye color. For that. for better or worse. Now the steps from enzymes reading “words” within DNA. and go about the work of performing the instructions indicated by those words. change is at least theoretically possible. Just understand that there are such paths. no enzymes. no life. a cook is needed. is an interesting subject to ponder. It’s like saying that a particular recipe for a cake makes the cake. no meals. and not directly to DNA.Saying that certain words in DNA “generate” a trait may sound strange. No cooks. butter. The cook reads the recipe. is “genetic.” we mean that this trait is encoded directly in DNA. Within the realm of personality theory. When we say that a certain trait. are a great many. to the manifestation of gross traits traceable to DNA (such as eye color). The difference between genetic traits and environmental traits is crucial because the former are very difficult if not impossible to change. the cooks are the enzymes. whereas for the latter. Environmental traits are those that are traced to experiences in our lives. are we stuck with? 107 . In the cellular world. Letters on a page can’t mix the flour. as the mouth of a great river that flows toward generating much of who and what we are. Enzymes “read” certain words within DNA. this distinction is crucial. But that’s not true. and follows the instructions to make the cake. So DNA. and milk. This is why enzymes are so important. It is well beyond the scope of this book to describe these lengthy biochemical paths.
The function of a muscle cell is to allow the muscle to contract and release. Neurons have a main body in which the nucleus (containing DNA). The axon is the “output” pathway for the neuron. So signals run from the dendrites. through the main body of the neuron. In contrast. multiple thin projections reach out to other neurons. These different kinds of cells perform different functions. although the end of the axon can branch out to connect with many other neurons. and tubular. From this main body. These “signals” are electrical currents. Liver cells serve to process toxins in the body. and on out along the axon. Each neuron typically has only one axon. This electricity in our brains is the same kind of electricity that runs through our houses. Electricity is just the flow 108 .NEURONS Now although every corner of our body is made up of cells. thin. different corners often contain different kinds of cells. Some neurons have thousands of dendrites. There are two main kinds of these projections: axons and dendrites. Muscle contraction is accomplished through the “bunching up” of the cells in that muscle. liver cells are shaped like beads and arranged in strings of these “beads”. Dendrites are the “input” pathways for the neuron. It is via its dendrites that a neuron receives signals from other neurons. as well as other items. Neurons are the cells that make up the brain. The function of the axon is to send signals to other neurons. Muscle cells tend to be very long. is stored. These different functions often demand very different shapes.
like Prozac. Neurotransmission within the synapse is interesting because this is the target of many different kinds of brain medications. known as “neurotransmitters”. prevent the removal of serotonin from the 109 .of electrons. the electrical current running along the axon causes the axon to start a chemical process resulting in the transmission of certain neurotransmitters to the dendrite. how does electricity flow from one neuron to the next? The problem of “neurotransmission” now shifts from a matter of electrical engineering. travel from the axon to the dendrite. A “sending” neuron communicates with a “receiving” neuron by way of the axon of the sending neuron connecting to a dendrite of the receiving neuron. Instead. But the sending axon and the receiving dendrite do not physically touch. lots of interesting chemical things happen. If they don’t touch each other. For example. And these neurons do not touch each other. to one of chemical engineering. certain chemicals. So one part of the story of how our brains operate concerns electrical currents running through our brains conveying messages. certain kinds of anti-depressants. That is. Receiving these neurotransmitters causes the dendrite to start a process that results in an electrical current being generated and sent along the dendrite toward the main body of the receiving neuron. But there is more to this story. “wires” in our brain consist of multiple discrete neurons. In the synapse. This gap is known as the “synapse”. Essentially. But the difference is that the electrical activity in our brains is a tiny fraction of the level required to run our toasters. there is a tiny gap between them. Unlike the wire of our toaster that is a single cord.
Depression can act to deplete certain areas of the brain of serotonin. It’s the same principle as the electricity that runs our toasters. That electricity has to originate from some energy source. we could get more done and might have a happier time on earth. by Andrew Solomon. from evolution to art. for which Mr. realize that he is a Four. if we felt up and great all the time we might forget all about creepiness and terror). is a comprehensive and moving work that seems to address just about every aspect of depression. and Prozac acts to nudge serotonin to stay in the brain for use in neurotransmission. For example. and you will see what I mean. this begs the question: What caused the depression that led to the depletion of serotonin? Presently. a flippant sounding comment. and well beyond. Solomon was awarded the National Book Award. Just read a tour de force like The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression. Serotonin is one kind of neurotransmitter that is used for communication between neurons. as well as to conduct this neurochemical exchange. Mr. on a better day. 110 .synaptic space. we do forget!” See also the discussion in Chapter 3 on “blissful ignorance” versus “miserable awareness”. but that idea is creepy and terrifying (though. Solomon from a lifelong “optimist”: “You’re right. and that the core of his views on depression fall straight out of the Enneagram theory [in a unique way though!]. Solomon might. If it did. Energy is required to generate this electrical charge.” 22 Response to Mr. Noonday Demon. including 24 This is. these sources are the electrical power plants. this is an open question in medicine. only a Four would write: “If we all felt up and great (but not delusionally manic) all the time. from treatment to politics. of course. of course.24 GLUCOSE METABOLISM The previous section described an electrical charge running through a neuron to result in a neurochemical exchange with a receiving neuron. In our electrical grid. Of course. Those power plants get their energy from the processing of certain kinds of fuel. One topic it doesn’t cover is the Enneagram. If the hypothesis of this book is correct – that the Enneagram is reflected in the workings of the brain – medical mysteries like this one may soon be solved.
In other words. The brain doesn’t hoard blood or glucose. glucose from our food enters our bloodstream. Blood travels to our brain and feeds glucose to our brain. This burning is referred to as “metabolism”. The power plant of the neuron “burns” glucose to generate the energy required for neurotransmission. and the fuel “burned” in the power plant is glucose. Instead. radioactive materials. How can we tell what is going on in living brains? 25 Jueptner et al.. Neuroimage (1995) June 148-56. which is a form of sugar. water flow. “Review: does measurement of regional cerebral blood flow reflect synaptic activity? Implications for PET and fMRI”.petrochemicals. and many other kinds of fuel. It is important to note that blood entering a certain part of the brain is an indication that neurotransmission is going on there. the wind. Now the discussion shifts to how the working of the brain is measured. In neurons. 111 . the brain employs a “just-in-time” inventory system for glucose.25 BRAIN MEASUREMENT IN THE AGE OF THE FLINTSTONES The previous section concludes the discussion about what the brain consists of and how it works. it goes straight into the production of energy resulting in neurotransmission. sunlight. “Glucose metabolism” in the brain refers to the process by which glucose is chemically converted into a form of energy usable by the neuron to function. From our small intestines. or the intermediate by-products of glucose metabolism. enters our bodies via the food we eat. Once glucose enters the neuron. our brains have a serious “sweet tooth”. the power plant is contained in the cell body. Glucose.
his personality changed radically. neuroscience as a field crept along. Gage’s brain were damaged. Brain researchers had a field day with this fellow. But today. methods available to those early researchers did not offer a full and clear view into the living brains of humans. using this method of research. He became coarse and aggressive. researchers could damage the brains of the animals in specific 112 . no further research could be conducted since the man was dead. He survived the accident. Researchers had to wait until he was dead at which time an autopsy was performed and revealed the extent of the damage. Constrained by these limitations. But by that point. with advances measured on the order of decades or even centuries. One of the most famous cases was that of a man named Phineas Gage. In the old days. with the current technology. A mild-mannered delivery-man. Gage one day suffered an accident whereby a metal rod pierced the left frontal side of his skull. Moreover. The limitation with this method of research was that the researchers could not be sure of exactly which regions in Mr. one way to try to figure out how the brain worked was to study people with brain damage. A second older method of brain research involved the use of animals. but with the hole in his head. the answer to this question was: “With difficulty.Before the last couple of decades. Mr. advances in knowledge proceeded on the order of centuries. advances in brain science are racing forward almost as fast as you are reading this.” That is. With animals. What this means is that brain research involving the study of brain-damaged patients like Phineas Gage was largely a case of “shooting in the dark”.
Other aspects were different. activity in the amygdala is critical to the neurological understanding of human personality. But how to know which was which? Still another older method of human brain research is known as EEG (electroencephalogram). studying animal brains and trying to tie the results of that research to the human brain was a reasonably speculative enterprise. This is precisely what EEG does. The limitation with this method of research was and is that animals are not humans. Researchers suspected that some aspects of animal brains worked reasonably the same as certain aspects of human brains. Thus it was first discovered that electricity is one means by which brains function. a researcher could not get a full picture of human personality. 113 . in fact. The limitation of this method of research was and is that EEG had and still has difficulty measuring electrical activity occurring deep within the brain. EEG involves the placement of electrodes (small metallic discs) at various locations on the scalp of the patient. A researcher attached an electrical probe to the brain of a frog and noticed that the frog’s leg twitched. this electrical activity is subject to measurement.26 This includes activity in the amygdala.ways to test the effect of the damage. 26 Sutton/Davidson (1997) at 209. Given that neurotransmission involves the flow of electricity. As we’ll see. These electrodes pick up on the electrical activity occurring in the brain regions just under the skull. how the electrical aspect of neurotransmission was discovered. Before living human brains could be studied in detail. So armed only with EEG. This is.
by advances in functional neuroimaging techniques. So the adoption of fMRI was relatively rapid. So the brain studies you will be reading about in this Part that rely on PET all come from the last few years. that the Internet began taking off in terms of popular use. So the brain studies you will be reading about in this Part that rely on fMRI also come from the last few years. or that PET was sufficiently developed at that point to provide terribly useful information. with the emergence of the Netscape Internet Browser. That doesn’t mean that by 1974. By 1990. 27 “The neurobiological substrates of human emotion are now attracting increasing interest with the neurosciences motivated. to a considerable extent.27 PET. MRI.” Dolan (2002) at 1191. PET did not take off among brain researchers until the mid-1990s.BRAIN MEASUREMENT IN THE AGE OF THE JETSONS The last quarter of the twentieth century witnessed breakthroughs in the study of living human brains. 114 . “Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. established technology. “Positron Emission Topography”.” is an even more recent invention. Just as the adoption of PET was starting to pick up steam in the mid-1990s. fMRI emerged in 1990 out of AT&T Bell Laboratories. so did the adoption of fMRI. fMRI represented an advancement over an earlier. was invented chiefly by Michael Phelps in 1973. Two technologies were invented allowing unprecedented visibility into this mysterious. Similarly. brain researchers were using PET. and beautiful domain. These two technologies are known as PET and fMRI. complex. Military in the 1960s. Note that the Internet was invented by an arm of the U. But it wasn’t until the mid-1990s.S. MRI was fairly ubiquitous within big hospitals and research laboratories. fMRI.
Both PET and fMRI allow the study of living human brains. PET can study glucose metabolism. Radiation involves the emission of subatomic particles (electrons and positrons) from a molecule. Different radioactive substances can be chosen to interact with different aspects of brain activity. The substance can be thought of as “piggybacking” on glucose. a substance can be chosen that attaches to a neurotransmitter like 115 . They do this to get “the best of both worlds. As noted. where the radioactive emissions are recorded by PET. the way they do so is quite different. so when glucose is metabolized in the brain. Although PET and fMRI both study glucose metabolism. PET. PET and fMRI via glucose metabolism. Recall that glucose metabolism is an indicator of brain activity. So some researchers – in particular wellfunded labs – employ both technologies in the same study. EEG gets there via electrical activity. These differences account for different relative strengths and weakness of the two technologies. via injection or orally.” PET works via the use of radioactive substances. This is enabled by using a radioactive substance that interacts with glucose. Patients ingest a small. instead of attaching to glucose. purportedly non-harmful amount of the radioactive substance. For example. the substance is there to let PET know about it. fMRI and EEG all ultimately study the same thing – brain activity – but they get there via different roads. Then the blood stream carries this substance to the brain. PET is more flexible than fMRI in that it is not limited to the study of glucose metabolism. In this way. and both use the fact of glucose metabolism to perform that study.
is “non-invasive”. That is. unlike PET. the studies you will be learning about all concern glucose metabolism. Blood volume indicates how much total blood has flowed through that region over a period of time. So PET makes it 116 . Instead. In that case. Putting aside the ability of PET to measure processes other than glucose metabolism. the heads of patients are placed in a magnetic field. As we saw earlier. with fMRI. This means no liquid or solid substance is transferred into the patient to enable study. not merely blood flow. fMRI can be thought of as watching closely for the “smoke signals” of glucose metabolism. fMRI works through the use of a magnetic field. Specifically. Blood flow is a transient measure of how much blood is moving through a particular area at a particular time.” The process of glucose metabolism – which as we’ve seen results directly in electrical and neurochemical brain activity – occurs via oxygen interacting with glucose to enable the release of energy. fMRI. the two offer different strengths and weaknesses. one advantage of PET over fMRI is that PET allows measurement of blood volume. in brain studies. Because of the differences in core technology between PET and fMRI. This field causes certain molecules in the brain to “line up” in such a way that fMRI can record the activity. But in this book. fMRI records the process of “blood oxygenation. PET can be used to watch how the brain is making use of serotonin.serotonin. serotonin is the target of one class of antidepressants. fMRI works differently. This is analogous to how wood requires oxygen to burn and thereby release energy in the form of heat.
animal research. Even with this drawback. How many pictures can you take in a short span of time? fMRI can take more pictures than PET. This is particularly so with experiments which seek to record emotional responses. and EEG. these relative strengths and weaknesses lead some researchers to use both technologies in certain studies. PET and fMRI represent dramatic improvements over the earlier methods of brain study – study of brain-damaged patients. As noted. So researchers do the best they can to get the patient comfortable and feeling reasonably natural. Also. But these motions can interfere with the operation of PET and fMRI. The cost of full systems runs into the multi-millions of dollars. we all tend to make certain bodily motions as part of that reaction. But these new technologies did not render 117 . A significant drawback of both PET and fMRI is that the patient needs to remain absolutely still while the recording is taking place.easier to get an answer to the question: How active has this particular region been? On the other hand. In responding emotionally to a stimulus. fMRI has its advantages over PET. You can think of this as shutter speed in a camera. This makes it difficult to conduct “natural” experiments in “natural” settings. Those researchers are the lucky ones because PET and fMRI are very expensive technologies. Think of this as the “focus” feature of the camera. fMRI allows better precision in identifying the region being studied. even though the patient is strapped to a gurney and placed in a space age contraption. These include superior temporal resolution.
consider the study of brain-damaged patients. I am proposing a connection between the Enneagram and 28 “Seven Sins in the Study of emotion: Correctives from affective neuroscience”. The convergence of aspects of the rodent work with studies of humans has been crucial for progress in this field. These differences in anatomy imply differences in the nature. 118 . on the other difference. we now know that many of the anatomical details of crucial components of this circuitry are different in rodents and primates. Brain and Cognition 52 (2003) 129-132. the rodent data have been essential in establishing some of the fundamental facts of subcortical circuitry … . The organization and connectivity of amygdala nuclei are different …. In fact. The older technologies were available to “hacks” like myself. the information now coming out of the study of brain-damaged patients is tremendously useful. For example. the researcher knows a tremendous amount about the specific damage to any particular patient. at 130. the opposite is true. function. [and] the anatomy of the prefrontal cortex is fundamentally different … . In the old days. the problem with this method of research was that the researcher could not know the precise extent or location of the damage. But now. with PET and fMRI. and complexity of emotions across species.28 Although PET and fMRI represent dramatic improvements over and to the older methods of brain research. Richard Davidson warns researchers to mind this human-animal line that is now clear to all: On the one hand. Knowledge of where this line is has made the animal research much more useful in the understanding of the human brain. On one side of the line is similarity. PET and fMRI have rendered these earlier methods much more useful than before. PET and fMRI have allowed researchers to understand the line separating animal brains from human brains. Similarly. In this book. these improvements have come at significant financial cost.these older methods obsolete. However. With this knowledge.
instead of doing the research myself and offering the results of that research? The answer is that I don’t have a PET or fMRI system out back in my garage. So the source of the money to pay for these systems becomes a significant consideration.neuroscience. PET and fMRI systems are very expensive. back in present reality. and by universities in close association with hospitals. imagine that this helmet runs for $79. Since we’re in fantasyland. In the vast majority of cases. or whatever. Imagine a future in which a device the size of a football or motorcycle helmet can be fitted on the head of the patient. “Can PET or fMRI come out to play?” BRAIN RESEARCH For the most part. Why am I offering merely a hypothesis. we have to knock on the doors of the houses in which PET and fMRI live. one needs to approach the institutions that own these systems. do somersaults. What would happen? One thing would be that we’d witness breathtaking “Stupid People Tricks” with the device. PET and fMRI machines are owned by hospitals. or for any other purpose for that matter. But.99 at Wal-Mart. in addition. I doubt that hardly any individual does. And the helmet provides all the information about the working of the living brain that PET and fMRI provide today. Maybe we’ll see it in our lifetime. To use these systems to conduct the research needed for establishing a connection between the Enneagram and neuroscience. Why are hospitals the common element? The answer begins with a familiar injunction: follow the money. flail his arms. the high cost of these systems means that an entity needs to earn income 119 . just imagine the advances in human knowledge. The patient can run around. But for now.
these professors tend to work in the departments of psychology. Prior to PET and fMRI. significant overlap among the fields of psychology. 29 [CTI IPO document] at 52. Tennessee. It a fundamental purpose of this book to get the Enneagram experts invited to the party. these systems are actually more often used in the treatment of diseases outside of the brain. CTI Molecular Imaging. such as Medicare. of Knoxville. including heart disease and cancer. they all meet at the same destination: the workings of living brains.from these systems to pay for those costs. Within these universities. Medicaid. But how would these systems earn income? The answer is: health care costs. Inc. 120 .S.29 This book concerns only the use of PET and fMRI in brain studies. Starting from different origins. neurobiology. today. and medicine were not so obvious and were certainly not universally accepted. our collective understanding of the human brain was relatively dim. Accordingly. private insurers and HMOs. Reimbursement is critical to increasing the adoption rate of PET by clinicians. This list of university departments is interesting in itself. is a leading producer of PET systems.. biology. The studies you will be reading about in the next two chapters were conducted primarily by professors from major universities that are associated with a hospital. But now. or medicine. As CTI explains: One of the principal reasons for growth in the PET market is the increasing number of PET applications being approved for reimbursement by third-party payors. Anyone reading the news knows there is a virtual epidemic of these sorts of diseases in the U. However. these three types of professors bump into each other regularly in the PET and fMRI labs at their schools.
Before the Internet. or medicine.The other interesting dynamic going on here concerns my role. I wouldn’t have even known what to look for. neurobiology. and spurred me to write this book. Let’s assume for a moment that the hypothesis of this book is correct and that it will prove useful to humanity. If these papers had not been on the Internet. That is. The problem is even deeper than that. It was only after reading a sufficient number of them that the proverbial “light bulb” went off in my head. the emergence of the Internet promises a similar effect on humanity as did the invention of the printing press in 1455 by Johannes Gutenberg. So what the heck am I doing writing this book? The answer has to do with the Internet. Certainly. The reason is that the ideas in this book evolved over the course of reading a number of the studies. to whom should I offer thanks for help in formulating this hypothesis? The primary answer is: the Internet. these papers were accessible only from within the universities and the hospitals. I am neither a professor nor even a student of psychology. it probably would not have occurred to me to even seek permission at universities or hospitals to conduct research. To me. nor am I an Enneagram expert. that prospect has excited me enough to fund my motivation for writing this book. I would have had to obtain permission from one of those institutions to use their information systems. it would have been quite difficult for me to write this book. One reason is that it would have been difficult to get hold of the neuroscience papers you will be reading about in the next two chapters. If my hypothesis does prove correct. 121 . Prior to the Internet.
But after Gutenberg’s invention and Tyndale’s bold use of it (a use for which he was burned at the stake). eventually one of them will come up with the collective works of Shakespeare. Maybe this book is one of these useful things banged out by one among the roiling sea of monkeys. But stay tuned. Bibles became available to the masses. William Tyndale used this new invention to print copies of the Christian Bible. Thomas Huxley reportedly once said that if you line up enough monkeys at keyboards. This is because instead of a handful of cloistered minds working on a problem. This was a major factor in the emergence of the European Reformation. and beware of the monkeys. Because history suggests it’s coming from one or more of us. you should have a basic understanding of a few concepts related to the brain. left 122 . and eventually one of them will come up with something useful. You should be aware that the brain can be viewed in a number of useful ways. through the mass publication of research papers such as this book relies upon. SUMMARY At this point. Bibles had been available only to the clergy. Especially you and me. In one way. two of which are the PFC and the amygdala. the brain is seen as a collection of different regions. and have them bang away long enough. Maybe it’s not. It is my belief that the Internet. Put enough monkeys in front of their Internet browsers. A second way of studying the brain looks at its two halves. including the left PFC . the Internet opens up the same problem to anyone and everyone. including you and me. will result in tremendous advances in human knowledge. Before that time. left and right.In the sixteenth century.
amygdala. and this metabolism is what both PET and fMRI measure. The basic understanding afforded by this chapter is necessary to understand the remainder of this book. this chapter explained that blood flow and associated glucose metabolism fuels the functioning of neurons. and how the concept of “genetics” arises from DNA. our journey into the brain promises reward. 123 . genes. However. In addition. with that understanding. If the preceding paragraphs don’t line up with what you believe you just finished reading in this chapter. you should now be aware that the brain consists of billions of cells called “neurons” and that these neurons communicate amongst each other using electricity and neurotransmitters. Independent activity in each half of the brain is the hallmark of “brain asymmetry”. thus giving us a live picture of the activity going on within the brain.” Delving deeper into the brain. then please go back and review the relevant sections. Turn the page to begin this journey. EEG involves recording electrical waves (thus neuronal activity) at the scalp. you should now familiar with the notion of DNA. Without that understanding. Moreover. These layers give rise to the notion of a “triune brain. A third way of viewing the brain considers its three main structural layers. right PFC and right amygdala. the rest of this book might strike you as gibberish.
this chapter also touches on consciousness and cognition. As we saw in Chapter 3. It concludes that. and the right PFC. in addition to analyzing the neuroscience findings on mood. Not that most. The same caution applies here. neuroscientists would heed the suggestions here.Chapter 5: Mood The chapter steps through the findings of neuroscience concerning mood. With reserves filled. this chapter stumbles upon some provocative suggestions for how neuroscience might develop. these findings support the conclusion that each of us typically exhibits a characteristic asymmetry dominance pattern in the PFC. still others. we are now ready to dive into the brain in search of mood. some of us are usually left PFC dominant. But all of us are somewhere along the continuum from extreme left dominance to extreme right. right PFC dominant. if any. the left prefrontal cortex (PFC) generates and processes the mood of optimism. There is more to personality than mere mood. that theory is far richer than simply a description of a few mood states. Further. in dealing with these broader subjects together with mood. At the same time. others. So. left and right PFC balanced. these suggestions may be interesting. the mood of pessimism. The introduction to Chapter 3 warned that the text to follow was going to be “dense”. mood is also at core of the Enneagram theory of personality. But all the same. But as Part One shows. according to current findings. So the current chapter lays the groundwork for linking that theory with the brain. These additional subjects serve to flesh out the rich elements of personality. So check your mental reserves before forging ahead. 125 . In other words.
that stuff is stored and processed in the working memory area of the PFC. Mr.32 Working memory is important because it is intimately related to consciousness. LeDoux/SS at 174-99.31 “Working memory” is the name neuroscientists give to the common notion of “short term memory”. Mr. problem-solving. we still don’t know where consciousness comes from nor why it shifts from one thought to another. But “working” memory is a better name because it suggests more about the stored information than merely its temporary nature.CONSICOUSNESS Although this chapter deals with mood (optimism and pessimism) and the PFC. But what else? Perhaps the most important function of the PFC is to house “working memory”. we do suspect that whatever consciousness is thinking about. to my knowledge. As Mr. Recent research is suggesting that only a small area (called the orbitofrontal cortext) of the PFC is responsible for mood.30 In Synaptic Self . But in the early 21st century. it would be misleading to suggest that processing mood is the dominant function of the PFC. and behavioral control. So the PFC dishes up much more than just mood. 126 .”33 That is. LeDoux devotes an entire chapter to working memory. LeDoux says: “The stuff we are conscious of is the stuff that working memory is working on. The name also highlights the “work” that is performed upon this information. 30 31 LeDoux/SS at 177-78. LeDoux calls this work the “executive functions” and says these functions are ultimately used for activities like planning. 32 LeDoux/SS at 179. 33 LeDoux/SS at 191.
As you will see in the remainder of Part Two. including almost everything and almost everyone in it. This doesn’t mean we can’t become conscious of our moods and our fear.” The captain can move passive awareness (the periscope) to scan the environment. With this introduction. the PFC is divided into a left and right side. think about an old-style submerged submarine. no control at all. generally speaking. The periscope is something Mr. activation of the two sides is asymmetric. LeDoux calls “passive awareness”34. The above metaphor explains that what is going on in our conscious minds at any moment represents only a small part of what is going in the rest of the brain. and over which he has only tenuous and marginal control. The conscious field is the captain who is operating the periscope. But there’s much more happening in the sub about which the captain has no idea. For understanding this notion.In this chapter. That is. some 34 See LeDoux/SS at 192. a milestone on the road toward optimism and pessimism. 127 . Rather. And everything else about the sub outside of the captain and the periscope is “unconscious processing. TRAIT ASYMMETRY As mentioned in Chapter 4. particularly in how it relates to the rest of the brain. He can also order some of the unconscious processing (the crew) to perform work. and. mood and fear are processes that seem to be part of the “rest of the brain”. it means that we’re not necessarily conscious of them. or. the notion of the “conscious field” will become important. we are now ready to dive into PFC asymmetry. more commonly. outside of consciousness.
Mr. your PFC is likely exhibiting a 35 36 Davidson (2004) Davidson (2003) 37 Davidson (2003) at 658. Below. Over the past ten years or so.37 Being a trait-like measure means that this asymmetry is reliable and stable over time. Davidson’s expertise lies in the area of PFC asymmetry as it applies to emotion. rather than cognition. 128 . Specifically.38 For example. and still other times activation is more or less symmetric. and for still others it tends to be more symmetric. but also try to capture the state of the field. These systematic differences between individuals is the topic of “trait asymmetry”.36 These papers offer a useful summary of Mr. Mr. for others it skews right. his most recent review papers are a 2004 commentary entitled “What does the prefrontal cortex ‘do’ in affect: perspectives on frontal EEG asymmetry research”35 and a 2003 article entitled “Affective neuroscience and psychophysiology: Toward a synthesis”. Davidson has published “review” papers that summarize not only his own research. the focus is on the simple fact of asymmetric dominance in activation. 38 Davidson (2003) at 658. So PFC activation for some people tends to skew left. But for now. Davidson explains that PFC asymmetry is a trait-like measure. As of this writing. this chapter explains the difference. other times the right PFC is more active. Mr. Mr. Davidson’s views circa 2004. as you are reading this page. This section looks at settled findings showing that individuals differ in a systematic way according to PFC asymmetry.times the left PFC is more active. Davidson is a leader in the field of neuroscience with respect to PFC asymmetry.
asymmetry is harder to measure. some individuals are only mildly left or right dominant. this asymmetry measure can fall anywhere along the continuum from extreme left to extreme right. It requires some equipment. Perhaps you write with your right hand. at present. This notion is akin to handedness. and so on. the day after. In some experiments.”39 But. Mr. Because trait measures are relatively stable across time. All that needs to be done is to observe what hand the subject chooses for activities like writing. According to the trait theory. PFC 39 Davidson (2003) at 658. The most basic equipment for measuring PFC asymmetry is EEG. EEG works well in detecting activity in this region. fMRI and PET are also useful for these measures. The notion is that. But. 129 . “righties”. that same balance will be present in your PFC later today when you brush your teeth. Now testing for handedness is easy. Because the PFC is located just under the skull at the front of the head. and next week when you watch television. With the use of EEG. That means there is a certain balance between left and right activation.certain pattern of asymmetry. the use of EEG seems to predominate in this area likely because EEG is far less expensive. of course. If you are using your right hand to write today. Davidson has studied “extreme left [lefties] and extreme right [righties] frontally [PFC] activated subjects. you will probably be using it tomorrow. individuals can be distinguished as “lefties”. for any individual. and “middle” folks in terms of PFC activity.
But this is exactly what the remainder of this chapter reveals. 130 . it may seem surprising that the emotional characteristics of such people are so different.43 In some of his studies. Researchers use the phrase “test-retest reliability” to refer to the practice of taking readings of the same people on different days and comparing the two sets of results. Mr. and middle (i.e.Talking about “extreme lefties” might make it sound like such individuals exhibit activity in their left PFC. For normal people.42 Other researchers have recorded scores of 44% to 71%. Not only does trait asymmetry represent a relatively slight difference in PFC activity. 42 Davidson (2003) at 658. the truth is not even close to this. Mr. extreme right. But this doesn’t mean that this pattern exists at every moment in time. but those slight differences are not rigidly stable. The test-retest data above suggests that some non40 41 Coan/Allen (2003) at 7.”40 This slight difference in activity is on the order of one to five percent. relatively even left and right). The word “trait” indicates that a particular pattern of asymmetry persists over time. Davidson has observed a testretest reliability of 65% to 75%. Researchers explain that “the difference between hemispheres is relatively small compared to the overall magnitude of activity in each hemisphere. In fact. In some of his experiments. and 66%.41 Given that the difference in activity between left and right PFC for an extreme lefty and for an extreme righty is so slight. 43 Coan/Allen (2003) at 9-10. this is not the case. but little or no activity in their right PFC. Coan/Allen (2003) at 7-8. Davidson has grouped individuals into one of three PFC asymmetry categories: extreme left.
The purpose of this procedure is to 44 45 Coan/Allen (2003) at 26-34 calls for research in this area. State frontal EEG asymmetries. by contrast. As researchers explain: [Trait asymmetry] involves correlating resting EEG activity with trait-like phenomena such as temperament or psychopathology. the first thing that happens is that resting “baseline” PFC asymmetry in the subjects is measured. STATE VERSUS TRAIT ASYMMETRY Trait asymmetry is one way of looking at PFC asymmetry.45 A simpler way to characterize the difference between the two approaches is to recognize that trait asymmetry focuses on differences between individuals. Coan/Allen (2003) at 3. This is akin to an experimenter taking a reading of the resting pulse rate or resting blood pressure of the subjects before the experiment begins.trivial percentage of individuals fell into different groups (left. whereas state asymmetry focuses on similarities between individuals. Another way of looking at it is known as “state asymmetry”. [State asymmetry] involves correlating state fluctuations in frontal EEG asymmetry with changes in emotional or motivational state. 46 Coan/Allen (2003) at 5: “[T]rait frontal EGG asymmetry will refer to asymmetries that are consistent intra-individually across time … . or middle) on different days. say. But I am unaware of studies looking at the individuals who failed to show test-retest consistency. or merely a little less or more left? Part Three suggests this avenue of research may prove promising. what pattern of dominance did he exhibit on the other day? Was it middle. 44 Such research might ask questions like: If an individual exhibited. left PFC dominance on one day of the experiment. may be thought of as those that are responsive to specific environmental conditions. or with state fluctuations in emotion. right. or right.” 131 . 46 In a typical trait asymmetry experiment.
the experiment begins and the subjects are presented with certain stimuli. These state asymmetry experiments then conclude by examining the patterns of PFC asymmetry exhibited by the subjects who reacted to the stimuli in the same way. the stimuli tend to be somewhat ambiguous. Once the subjects are thus categorized. If that pattern is consistent across the subjects. That is. Given that the title of this chapter is “Mood. and middle. they tend to be stimuli to which different kinds of people will typically react differently. Eliciting different reactions is the point of such experiments. right dominant. State asymmetry experiments are crucial to this chapter in another way.categorize the subjects. In these experiments. state asymmetry experiments “drill down” on how specific emotions correlate with specific patterns of PFC asymmetry. Accordingly. To the extent there is a significant correlation between the two. checking is typically done to ensure that the subjects did indeed experience a similar reaction. the experiment has revealed something about how PFC asymmetry relates to temperament – in other words. These trait asymmetry experiments then conclude by correlating the different categories of reactions to the different categories of PFC asymmetry. to mood. In trait asymmetry experiments. Whereas trait asymmetry experiments look directly for how mood correlates with PFC asymmetry. then the 132 .” observe that trait asymmetry experiments will play a particularly significant role in this chapter. state asymmetry experiments tend to use fairly unambiguous stimuli. The notion is that most everyone is expected to react in a similar way to these kinds of stimuli. One method of categorization involves collating the subjects into three groups: left dominant.
For example. Collections of certain of these specific emotions comprise a particular mood. disgust. Making up this broad concept are many different kinds of specific emotions. In this way. Similarly. The primary objective of this interplay is to arrive at theories that more closely approach truth. alternatively. casting doubt on that theory. sadness. including. This is the way in which state and trait asymmetry experiments interact. 133 . Typically. these experiments will announce that some particular emotion. collect two points for your keen powers of observation. collections of state asymmetry experiments. and pride can be considered part of a “positive” or “up” mood. “Mood” is a very broad concept. enthusiasm.experiments typically conclude that that particular reaction is mediated by that particular pattern of PFC asymmetry. joy. studying collections of state asymmetry experiments is a “bottom up” way to approach the sort of conclusion that trait asymmetry experiments tend to pursue directly.47 So state asymmetry experiments are necessary for building up a theory of mood. for example. Then. or set of emotions. fear. pride. which collectively span many different kinds of emotions. and read on. is processed by the left or right PFC. fear. As time proceeds. sadness. can be reviewed to discern patterns. trait asymmetry experiments can be designed to test the theory. enthusiasm. and anger. joy. 47 Perhaps you’re thinking: “What about ‘anger’? Where does it fit in?” If so. Then with this theory. and disgust can collectively describe a “negative” or “down” mood. later state asymmetry experiments may come along that have the effect of supporting or.
just like cognition. it is clear that the study of emotion. Up until the past ten years or so. this chapter points to research showing that this distinction is not so sharp.com/search?q=cognition Davidson/Sutton (1995) 50 Davidson/Sutton (1995) at 217. As that paper explained: As research progresses in this area. including aspects such as awareness. Mr. such as the perception of emotional information and the production of expressive behavior and autonomic activity.” emotion as “feeling. will require a dissection of emotional processes into more elementary operations. neuroscientific study of the brain was dominated by the study of cognition.COGNITION VERSUS EMOTION One final distinction to understand before we launch into the asymmetry research is the difference between cognition and emotion. not of cognition. The discussion in the previous section on the differences and relationship between trait and state PFC asymmetry experiments concerned only studies of emotion. the distinction is useful to draw. and judgment. In 1995. But. Davidson coined to refer to the study of emotion in the brain.50 48 49 http://dictionary.”49 “Affective neuroscience” is the name Mr. Davidson co-authored a paper entitled “Affective neuroscience: the emergence of a discipline.”48 A dictionary definition of “emotion” is “[t]he part of the consciousness that involves feeling. for now. 134 . It is only in the last decade that the neuroscientific study of emotion has emerged in force. Later. Cognition is defined as “[t]he mental process of knowing. not of emotion.” So. sensibility.reference. cognition can be thought of as “thinking. roughly speaking. perception. reasoning.” Convention has it that these two mental processes are very different. and quite independent. whose neural substrates can be better understood.
Concerning trait asymmetry in cognition. we saw that state asymmetry experiments proceed by attempting to elicit the same emotional reaction from all subjects. trait and state PFC asymmetry are approached in a particular way. the right eye sends the light it perceives to the left side of the 135 . respectively. the game is slightly different. the concepts have meaning in this field. incorporating so many sub-processes that. In the neuroscientific study of emotion. these questions are too vague at present. the terms “trait asymmetry” and “state asymmetry” typically do not even appear in the field of cognitive neuroscience. a relevant question is: How does the thinking of people of different baseline PFC asymmetry differ? In other words. how do righties think? How do lefties think? As it turns out. at present. Even so. overarching theories of how PFC asymmetry corresponds to thinking are still a matter more of speculation. With respect to the study of cognition. Humans have two eyes and two ears that perceive light and sound. In fact. “Thinking” is such a broad notion. So in the field of cognitive neuroscience. state asymmetry experiments dominate. As it turns out. In cognitive neuroscience.This passage highlights the comparative importance of both emotion and cognition to the understanding of humans. The passage goes further and highlights two key branches of research into emotion: perception (“perception of emotional information”) and experience (“production of expressive behavior …”). than of solid research. Cognitive neuroscience makes use of the nature of human perception.
Hellige (1993) at 112. Hellige (1993) at ##. That is. this class of recent research is revealing the seamless connection between emotion and cognition. record what happens in the PFC of the subjects). and keep the stimuli hidden from the subject’s left eye. to the right side.e. instead of the right and left PFC furiously passing signals back and forth in performing some function. the left eye. the researchers – both of cognition and emotion – present the stimuli and simply “roll the tape” (i. the performance of the subject in response to the stimuli can be attributed to the left PFC. all that researcher needs to do is to display the visual stimuli to the right eye of the subject. we are now ready to dive into the asymmetry research. Then. each side more or less does its work by itself. So that’s the main reason why cognition is addressed below. The next section deals with asymmetry in cognition. The remaining sections of this chapter look at asymmetry in emotion. With these technologies.52 Where the study of cognition and emotion merge is in the use of modern technology like fMRI and PET.51 So when a cognitive neuroscientist wants to study. and then the final result of processing of each side is seamlessly unified in human consciousness. 136 . That’s why this chapter focuses mostly on it. With this introduction. The latter form of asymmetry plays the greatest role in mood and personality. as well as for touch. But some aspects of mood and personality are cognitive in nature. The same “crossing over” dynamic holds for hearing. As a later section explains.brain. say. how the left PFC responds to certain visual stimuli. 51 52 ## cite The researcher can draw this conclusion because the functioning of the two hemispheres is relatively independent.
Hellige (1993) at 2. has been recognized as of one the leading works in the field. feeling. and the prevailing theory of cognitive asymmetry. But regarding cognition. Mr.But there’s another reason for addressing cognition. artistic. Hemispheric Asymmetry: What’s Right and What’s Left.54 Or that the left is for language. In Hemispheric Asymmetry. the functional distinction between the two sides is far more narrow and subtle then these broad. As we’ll see in the next section. Popular misconceptions of this asymmetry hold that the left PFC is rational. Hellige makes clear that these simplistic notions are incorrect. then this theory. Mr. Hellige’s 1993 book. Mr. There are indeed “lefties” and “righties” in terms of activation. 137 . crude notions. Hellige makes clear that the differences between left and right PFC with respect to cognition are not gross or large.53 Other misconceptions hold that thinking is a left function. ASYMMETRY IN COGNITION Among the most respected authorities on the matter of cognitive asymmetry has been Joseph Hellige of Harvard University. this chapter argues that if the correct theory of mood asymmetry concerns optimism and pessimism. But first things first. and creative. seem to mesh nicely. a right function. the 53 54 Hellige (1993) at 1. Later. classical subject of cognition may turn out to be “merely” a special case in the longignored. the right. Let’s begin with asymmetry in cognition. a plausible argument exists that the grand. much-maligned subject of emotion. whereas the right is for orienting ourselves in space. In fact.
They are relative to the conscious field. For example. But that would be a different moment in time.56 Toward understanding what this means. At any moment in time. At any particular moment in time. and context is the whole word. Hellige (1993) at 63-6 56 Ornstein (1997) at ##. The context of that sentence concerns its overall meaning. 138 . He could move the periscope to look at something else. Next. Another way to characterize this difference is “local” versus “global”. As the conscious field changes. consider any sentence in this paragraph. and the periscope.left versus right distinction in emotion is more dramatic. the captain’s consciousness of what is going on at the surface is limited to what he sees through the periscope (ignore for now. observe that text and context are relative notions. Now your conscious field has shifted from the whole sentence. But in cognition. consider a particular word from that sentence. asymmetry is a delicate matter. to a single word in the sentence. other sensory tools like radar).55 Mr. 57 Hellige (1993) at ##. the captain. text is now the individual letters of the word. so do text and context. or “parts” versus “whole”. the captain’s awareness is limited to his conscious field. Hellige’s hypothesis on the cognitive difference between left and right PFC has been described by Robert Ornstein as the difference between “text” and “context”. Now. The text of that sentence includes every individual word. taking this notion of the conscious field. With this as the present scope of your conscious field. first recall the analogy some pages back concerning the submarine.57 55 ## Hellige believes single fundamental dichotomy may be futile – but for gross tasks – maybe not for subprocesses.
The “pragmatic” aspects of language include the “context in which an utterance occurs”. In contrast. this larger understanding has been achieved by stitching together numerous state asymmetry findings. In other words. narrative-level linguistic information) and the use of intonation and prosody to communicate emotional tone. for using syntactic information. “Phonetic” information involves the translation of written symbols into sounds (e. and apprehension. As noted earlier. patients with damage to the right PFC don’t “get” jokes or metaphors. 139 . Mr. “B” translates to the sound “buh”). Syntax refers to the rules of grammar for constructing a proper sentence.g. trait asymmetry experiments are presently infeasible in cognitive neuroscience. for the perception of phonetic information. working memory.59 For example. Hellige explains that: [T]he left hemisphere seems dominant for the production of overt speech. Relatively speaking. 58 59 Hellige (1993) at 61-62. In speaking.This contemporary understanding of cognitive asymmetry evolved out of decades of cognitive experiments that teased out one narrow difference or another.. However. and for certain aspects of semantic analysis. Representative examples of these state asymmetry findings include experiments on: language. the right hemisphere is used for the broader forms of communication. including the use of pragmatic aspects of language (e. “overt speech” refers to the use of words to communicate. Semantics involves the translation of symbols into meaning. Hellige (1993) at 38-39. this involves translating thoughts into vocal sounds that symbolize meaning. these are narrow features of language. the right seems dominant for certain other aspects of language.58 Concerning the left side.g. Starting with language. vision.
the lefties will get their revenge later in the discussion on health. The key to “getting” jokes. It would seem that skilled writers don’t much care for the lefties.) so different as to be opposite. So. threat. and poetry is “the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time [while] still retain[ing] the ability to function”.60 Putting together these sentiments of Messrs. Tone and accent are the arrows in the quiver of “passive aggression”. ambivalence. metaphors. Intonation refers to tone of voice. Consider the phrase “I love you”. etc. to accent. prosody. Scott Fitzgerald once said: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. Ford expressed his antipathy toward “literalists”.Early on in the previous century. Fitzgerald and Ford with a sentiment expressed by award-winning author Andrew Solomon (“If we all felt up and great … all the time. Well. The other language advantage of the right hemisphere concerns “the use of intonation and prosody”. certainty. Mr. we could get more done and might have a happier time on earth. Fitzgerald was insulting extreme “lefties” who have trouble “getting it”. Richard Ford. 60 ## cite “The Sportswriter” 140 .” He couldn’t have known it at the time. The importance of these non-verbal aspects of language cannot be overstated. a speaker of such words could convey meanings (sincerity. but that idea is creepy and terrifying”). The same sentiment was expressed by a more recent Pulitzer Prize winning novelist. compassion. a pattern begins to emerge. Mr. in his famous statement. famous author F. sarcasm. Using different tones of voice and different accents. but what he was talking about was a function of the right hemisphere.
Hellige describes a most elegant experiment involving brain-damaged subjects. the patients with right hemisphere damage noticed the Zs. parts versus whole. but not the Zs. the left hemisphere notices parts.This discussion on language illuminates the difference between text and context. The same dichotomy is evident for vision. These subjects were presented with a Norman Rockwell painting and asked to state what this picture was about. but not the M. Patients with left hemisphere damage showed the opposite pattern. the right notices the whole. in order to correctly interpret it. Ornstein (1997). All of the subjects proposed incorrect results. noticing the M. Thus. Mr. the subjects needed to simultaneously hold in mind several of the picture’s visual cues (“context”). Merely stepping through each cue individually (“text”) would lead to an incorrect result.63 The nature of the painting was such that.62 This experiment used subjects with brain damage to their right hemisphere. 63 Ornstein (1997) at 140. Another instance of this finding is provided in an experiment that serves as the backbone of Mr. Ornstein’s book.61 The subjects were presented with pictures like the following: Z Z ZZ ZZ Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Hierarchical Stimulus In the experiment. 141 . So the 61 62 Hellige (1993) at 74-75.
Researchers are now asking how the PFC manifests text versus content. the field has branched out. Moreover they seem to be accessed sequentially. perhaps this is no accident. I’m not necessarily suggesting brain damage informs our nation’s highest offices. it doesn’t seem as though the subjects demurred from issuing conclusion about the picture on the grounds of lacking sufficient information upon which to base a conclusions. from the way the whole is represented and accessed. But with the recent advent of PET and fMRI. The preceding discussion on language and vision corresponds to cognitive research of the past few decades. analytical way. In other words. current research is explaining the mechanisms by which this asymmetry operates. not all at once. Earlier research revealed the existence of this asymmetry. One interesting dynamic coming out of Mr. It seems that the parts are represented in an abstract. albeit incorrectly. they just barged ahead confidently.experiment corroborated that right PFC is necessary for capturing the visual “whole” or “context”. parts versus whole. This recent research looks at the different way in which the parts are represented and accessed in working memory. In my opinion. with partial information. Instead. 142 . If this dynamic brings to mind current American business and political leadership. I’m merely suggesting that our present business and political culture may skew appreciably left in terms of PFC activation. Ornstein’s book is the confidence with which some of the brain damaged subjects seemed to offer their incorrect interpretations. this skew becomes even more apparent in the discussion on PFC asymmetry in emotion.
various sounds were presented to the subjects. the whole seems to be accessed all at once. 66 Optiz (2000) 143 . and word that represents the sound. the proposed strategy for the left PFC is analytic-based representations. and the musical score for that sound.In contrast. and less as a tight abstraction. This study highlighted the difference between an actual sound. Later. versus just storing the musical score for the sounds. These conclusions arise from a number of recent studies. Moreover. Many musical scores can be stored in the space needed for storing the sounds for only one of the scores. it is image-based representations. The musical score is the set of rules for generating the sound. A later study66 expanded on this proposal. is great.65 Specifically. while the right PFC was used for the “loudness” description of the sounds. Consider the difference between the sound of music. The study found that the left PFC was used for representing the “verbal description” information about the sounds. or to decide whether the sound could be verbally described. It’s not the sound itself. The amount of information needed for storing sounds.64 In explaining this results. One of these found that the working memory in the left PFC retains information for a longer duration than does right-sided working memory. the whole seems to be represented more directly. Courtney (1998) at 1824. that study suggested that the two sides use different strategies for representing stimuli. In this study. Subjects were asked either to judge the loudness of the sound. for the right. their memory was tested. This illustrates the difference between an 64 65 Courtney (1998) at 1824.
the finding suggests that the latter tend to “get” the “whole story” of the stimulus.analytic-based representation of a stimulus. Storage in working memory requires activation of the neurons in that area. it follows that. the right requires more storage space than the left. “the right hemisphere … seems to be superior to the left for the perception of both positive 67 See Courtney (1998) at 1824. This book uses the term “apprehension” to reference the ability to perceive negative emotions in others. The final cognitive attribute addressed in this section concerns apprehension. as Mr. Actually. Researchers reason67 that this difference between an abstraction of a stimulus. and the sensations of the stimulus. Hellige explains. This provocative finding suggests that. So the more space in working memory that is required for storing a piece of information. In neuroscience. The right would consume more energy in doing so. the more energy that is required for this storage. all things being equal. we see that this is a function of the right PFC. the right would tire before the left. left PFC dominant people tend to abstractly analyze a stimulus more effectively than do right PFC dominant people. Since it appears that right working memory stores the sensations of stimuli. At the same time. Accordingly. for any particular stimulus. And activation entails the expenditure of energy. and a direct visual or auditory representation of the stimulus. explains the durational differences between left and right working memory. while the former are getting only pieces of it. 144 . while the left stores abstractions of them.
emotion and cognition were still being treated as relatively separate domains within the field of neuroscience. the right PFC seems to be able to maintain continuous attention on a stimulus for a longer period than can the left PFC. Davidson has coined the phrase “affective neuroscience” to refer to the study of emotion in the brain. Mr.71 Put simply.”68 Included in this notion is the superiority of the right PFC in “identifying the emotional tone of spoken material. The right PFC seems to be dominant for taking advantage of warning signals. serve as an ideal stepping off point for the next subject: asymmetry in emotion. for the purposes of the present discussion. e. the right PFC is the “watchdog” of consciousness. Apprehension of emotion.”69 In the previous paragraph. “Affect” and 68 69 Hellige (1993) at 50. recent studies are indicating that the two domains seamlessly integrate. this book will continue to consider the two domains as separate. as the next section shows. Beyond apprehension of emotion in others. both positive and negative. may be primarily a right PFC function. Mr. 71 Hellige (1993) at 105. and wary attention. 145 . ASYMMETRY IN EMOTION As of this writing. and perhaps even overlap.70 Moreover. Hellige emphasized the word “perception. 72 See.” He did that because. However.g. 70 Helige (1993) at 104-105. Mr. Hellige shows that the right PFC is also more attentive and alert.. As mentioned. Gray (2002).and negative emotions.72 However. while perception of emotion. Hellige (1993) at 51. the experience of positive and negative emotion is not.
Here. see also Dolan (2002) at 1191 (emotion is for memory. Davidson are central to this book. Since the processing of emotion is key to understanding how personality manifests in the brain. motivation. deep within Chapter 5. Concerning the study of affect. Although the name “emotional neuroscience” also lines up nicely. and vulnerability to psychopathology. and vulnerability to psychopathology. and belief fixation). we have a leader in the field of neuroscience saying that human personality seems to be a function of the brain.”73 Finally. we have come to the “beginning of the ending” of this book. the theories of Mr.“emotion” are synonyms. Davidson explains: “Complex decisions – such as who to marry. Davidson chose the name “affective neuroscience” for the domain was because it fits nicely beside the name “cognitive neuroscience”. personality. “Personality” is the subject of this entire book. a useful next step is to ask: What is the purpose of emotion? The answer coming out of neuroscience seems to be: “for decisionmaking”. Davidson has written: “Differences among people in affective style appear to be associated with temperament. is a term Mr. as this chapter describes below. “Temperament” is a synonym for “mood” which is the title of this chapter. Mr. Perhaps Mr. Davidson mentions “affective style” and also “temperament. Mr. 146 .” “Affective style”. it has the undesirable side effect of conjuring up the “Far Side” image of emotionally distraught brain scientists trapped in hysteria. which job to take – cannot be made solely on the basis of a cold calculus 73 74 Davidson (1998) at 308. Bechara et al (2000).74 As Mr. personality. Specifically. with this statement. Davidson uses to refer to certain patterns of brain functioning. Accordingly.
The preceding discussion indicates that emotion is used for decisionmaking.that involves the weighting of pros and cons in a formulaic prescription. is conscious. what sort of decision-making is processed by the left PFC.79 75 76 Davidson (2003) at 655. and that certain patterns of brain activity are associated with the experience of emotion. requires left-sided PFC activation.77 Mr. “withdrawal”. The instantiation of such goals. We are now ready to look at asymmetry in emotion.”76 Note that the sort of decision-making being discussed here involves consciousness.” the right PFC. 77 Davidson (2003) at 655 (“approach and withdrawal [are] two of the core dimensions”). Davidson explains: [W]e suggest that left-sided PFC regions are particularly involved in approachrelated appetitive goals. and what sort by the right PFC? The current. effective decision-making “promote[s] adaptation. That is. generally accepted answer in neuroscience is that the left PFC mediates “approach.”75 Thus. eighty-five 6-month-old babies were used as subjects. alternatively. Davidson (2003) at 655. 78 79 Buss (2003) 147 . This latter sort of decision-making will be discussed in the next chapter. and hypoactivation in these circuits has been linked to depression. are hypothesized to be particularly important in behavioral inhibition and vigilant attention that often accompanies certain aversive emotional states and traits. which is driven by emotion. In other words. particularly in the face of strong alternative responses.78 This approach/withdrawal dichotomy is most evident in the studies of children. In a 2003 study. Right-sided PFC regions. Whether right-sided PFC activation is a core feature underlying withdrawal behavior in general or behavioral inhibition and vigilant attention more specifically is a question to which we still do not have an adequate answer. at least some part of this decision-making process. and which effects mood. This is distinct from emotional decision-making that is wholly unconscious.
Right). the infants were seated in a high chair and subjected to a procedure called “stranger approach. That is. Put crudely. Middle. from baseline to 80 81 Buss (2003) at 12. just because an infant showed baseline extreme left PFC activity. 148 . Right). the infants were observed and coded for signs of “facial fear. and stared at the infant for up to 2 min.” “During the stranger approach. That is. baseline resting PFC asymmetry was measured and the infants were divided into three groups: Left. that didn’t necessarily mean he would not display a withdrawal response during stranger approach. Middle. correlated with right PFC activity. those infants who exhibited extreme right PFC activity during the stranger approach were the ones to exhibit sadness/fear. Then. Infants who exhibited more middle or extreme left PFC activity during that task displayed much less sadness/fear. bodily sadness. and Right. facial sadness. EEG recordings were made of activity in the PFCs of the infants. and escape behaviors. the researchers further found that resting baseline PFC asymmetry only weakly predicted the withdrawal response. Also. Interestingly.”80 During this.In the experiment. Conversely. slowly approached the infant with a neutral expression. Buss (2003) at 12.”81 The researchers found that PFC asymmetry measured during the stranger approach predicted the sadness/fear response. The researchers found only a “moderate” correlation between the baseline groups (Left. vocal distress (crying). bodily fear. is called the “withdrawal” response. a male stranger entered the room. Middle. infants showing baseline extreme right PFC activity did not necessarily exhibit withdrawal responses. and the stranger approach groups (Left. This sadness/fear response.
The robot talked and walked toward the children. One older study by Mr. a brigade of “terrible twos”). So the older studies need to be read with particular care. “There were age-appropriate toys on the floor in the playroom. The subtle and complex relationship between trait (baseline) PFC asymmetry and state (task-based) PFC asymmetry is emerging in the most recent studies like this one. including a toy tunnel through which the children could crawl. and Affective Style at 378-382.82 Earlier studies that introduced the basic notion of PFC asymmetry in emotion – whether trait asymmetry or state asymmetry – tended to ignore this complex trait/state relationship. 35-36 for an in-depth discussion of possible models for trait/state associations. a stranger entered the room with a tray of “very interesting-looking toys” and invited the children to play with the toys. The children were observed and measured according to how much they engaged with the stimuli in the playroom. Davidson and his colleagues sheds further light on the approach/withdrawal dichotomy. That 1993 experiment studied 381 children aged 31 months (i.the stressful stranger approach task. and some righties became lefties or middies. 149 .e. two unfamiliar same-sex peers were escorted into a playroom with their mothers. a robot was brought into the room. From these measurements.” At minute ten. the mothers sat on chairs and did not interact with their children. some lefties became righties or middies. three 82 See Coan/Allen (2003) at 29-34. and left in the room for 25 minutes. At minute 20. some middies became lefties or righties. During the experiment. Emotion. 83 Davidson: Cerebral Asymmetry.83 In the experiment.
of the “fun” stimuli. the activities seemed to focus predominantly on outward exploration and adventure. Actually. It’s not difficult to imagine how the experiment could be changed to study these latter sorts of attributes. quiet observation. and middle. on average. Mr. these children were measured via EEG for PFC asymmetry. Davidson and his colleagues found that. extreme disengagement. But I use the latter terms here because they are more narrowly descriptive. Returning to the 1993 study. and less loaded. “inhibited” and “uninhibited” could take on very different meanings. In those cases. At the other extreme. rather than group play. if any.groups were formed: extreme engagement. nurturing. the extreme disengagement group spent. Furthermore. Mr. Note this 1993 “terrible twos” experiment concerned only individual play. on average. more than 19 of the 25 minutes clinging to mother. During the rest of the 24 minutes and 51 seconds. At age 38 months (6 months later). say. these little dynamos raced around the room engaging with anything and everything they could get their eager little fingers on. the extreme engagement group spent only 9 seconds out of the 25 minutes sticking close to mother. rather than on. The middle group fell in between the two extremes on these measures. on average. That is. The researchers found that the three groups differed according to baseline activation of left PFC. Davidson used the terms “uninhibited” and “inhibited” instead of “extreme engagement” and “extreme disengagement”. and engaging with few. creativity. or aggression. high baseline activation of left PFC. the extreme engagement group showed. the extreme 150 . This is why I stick to the narrow notion of “engagement”.
no EEG readings were taken. restrained eaters). Adults are much more complex and ambiguous in the way they express fear.disengagement group showed.”85 The rest of the time. Furthermore. Thus. 151 . Notice in this 1993 “terrible twos” experiment. and joy. on average. The study found that. on average. In other 84 85 Silva at al (2002) Silva at al (2002) at 677. But extrapolating these findings to adults is tricky business. For example. two groups – restrained eaters. it suggested that the left PFC is associated with fun-loving adventurism. these people tend to be “chronic dieters” (i. whereas the unrestrained eaters showed no dominant PFC asymmetry pattern. the restrained eaters were right PFC dominant. “[T]he restrained eater is especially sensitive to anxiety-provoking situations. the 1993 study did hint strongly at something: namely. The middle group showed. while the children were racing around the room. no state asymmetry readings were taken.84 Starting with 55 women. That is. and unrestrained eaters – were formed based on answers to a questionnaire. Only trait asymmetry readings were taken after the fact. or clinging onto mother. low baseline activation of left PFC. at least in infants and in toddlers.e. mid-level baseline activation of left PFC. when exposed to such situations. a 2002 experiment studied women and their eating habits. This experiment measured baseline (trait) PFC asymmetry. Despite these limitations. we’ve seen that the left/right approach/withdrawal dichotomy seems to have something to do with fun-loving adventurism versus expressed sadness and fear. these trait asymmetry readings were reported only in terms of group averages. sadness. on average. restrained eaters typically overeat.
some of the unstrained eaters were right PFC dominant. restrained eating behavior in an adult is a much more complex and ambiguous activity than is crying for a 6-month-old baby. “That thing will hurt me” = withdrawal from danger). we need to drill deeper. action without thought). only 18 showed a pattern of right PFC dominance (i. Coan/Allen (2003) at 14. VALENCE VERSUS SENSITIVITY In the literature. 152 .87 These are radically different interpretations of the same observed withdrawal. Specifically. the subject could be engaging in instinctive flight (i. The same criticism applies to “approach” and “withdrawal”. there have been two different models for clarifying the vague approach/withdrawal diathesis: (1) valence. This study indicates that the right PFC plays some role in the behavior of restrained eating. For example. 5 were not right PFC dominant). I believe studies that look to “sociability” versus “shyness” as the hallmarks of the approach versus withdrawal.e. cognitive pessimism (i. an instance of behavioral withdrawal could be interpreted very differently depending on the imputed motivation of the subject.e. As some researchers have noted. After all. Coan/Allen (2) (2003) at 107. or cognitive optimism (i. Thus. left PFC versus right.words.e. For this reason. 86 87 Schmidt.e. “I can run to safety” = approach toward safety). But that role is not altogether clear. of the 23 restrained eaters in the study. “Sociability” and “shyness” are notions that seem too vague and ambiguous to be useful here. and (2) sensitivity. to understand “approach” and “withdrawal”. dichotomy86 reach too far.
Davidson’s at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Mr. Harmon-Jones was a junior colleague of Mr. we can conclude that. the dichotomy is between positive and negative affect. Davidson is the PANAS scale. Mr. Mr.”88 Since mood and personality are trait-like attributes.”89 As of 2004. Mr. this chapter noted that Mr. Davidson associates affective style with personality generally. Consistent with this 2003 view of Mr. About affective style. The PANAS is a questionnaire that probes the mental state of the subject. Davidson had been the principal proponent of the valence model. Under the sensitivity model. Until 2004. Davidson had consistently reported that the positive schedule of PANAS correlates with left PFC. Davidson saw PFC asymmetry as a matter of emotional valence. and on negative emotions like “distressed”. Mr. as of 2003.According to the valence model. Earlier. it is between optimism and pessimism. Mr. and the negative schedule with right PFC. in 2004. Davidson reversed course and now seems to have abandoned the valence model. and “strong”. “excited”. “guilty”. 153 . I argued the same point … . and “hostile”. This questionnaire asks subjects to rate themselves on positive emotions like “interested”. Since 1998. More than 20 years ago. Up through 2003. Mr. However. He writes: “[Eddie Harmon-Jones] argues that [the PFC asymmetry research is] consistent with the approach-withdrawal framework rather than with a valence-based model for frontal EEG asymmetry. Davidson’s statement as recently as 2003 was: “[A]ffective style [is defined] as valence-specific features of emotional reactivity and affective responding. and with mood specifically. “PANAS” stands for “Positive and Negative Affect Schedule”. Harmon-Jones has been 88 89 Davidson (2003) at 657 Davidson (2004) at 224.
Furthermore. Messrs. and novelty. Harmon-Jones et al (2000). BIS is simply pessimism (“a tendency … to take 90 91 Harmon-Jones/Allen (1998). Carver and White are the authors of the BAS/BIS Scales. see also Coan/Allen (2003) at 26 which cites this work. 154 . the BIS/BAS Scales is a questionnaire that seeks to mine the emotional profile of the subject.93 Like the PANAS. HarmonJones’ work casts doubt on the degree of correlation between PANAS and PFC asymmetry. nonpunishment. Specifically BIS. the only remaining model for explaining approach/withdrawal is the sensitivity model. Harmon-Jones has shown that the degree of activity in left PFC correlates with the degree of aggression in optimistic anger.90 Optimistic anger is anger coupled with the belief that the anger will help achieve a positive result.91 The reason why optimistic anger precludes the valence model is that anger is generally considered “a negatively-valenced but approach-related emotion”92. obviously. Mr. The present conclusion of these studies is that optimistic anger is a function of the left PFC. which stands for “Behavioral Activation System” or “Behavioral Approach System”. The principal authors of that model are Charles Carver and Teri White.publishing EEG studies dealing with the emotion of anger. which stands for “Behavioral Inhibition System”. nonreward.”94 BAS. Harmon-Jones et al (2000). and escape from punishment. “is sensitive to signals of punishment.” Defined this way. the PANAS counts “hostility” and “irritability” – two low-ebb anger emotions – as negative emotions. See also Coan. “is said to be sensitive to signals of reward. unable to accommodate these recent anger findings. With the valence model having been discarded.Allen (2003) at 4 (“The valence model is. Mr. 93 Carver/White (1994). 94 Carver/White (1994) at 319. Consistent with this view. 92 Coan/Allen (2003) at 13. as anger is a negatively valenced emotion characterized by left frontal activation”).
This complexity in the sensitivity model impacts experimental design.com/search?q=optimism 155 . The above discussion on optimistic anger reduces the valence model to optimistic positive emotions. and pessimistically later.reference. That is.the gloomiest possible view”95) and BAS. Since optimistic states of mind are frequently accompanied by positive emotions. Even more complex. room is left within this model for subjective appraisals of the stimuli. BAS/BIS is predominantly social in nature. An important distinction between the discarded valence model and the sensitivity model is along the dimension of objectivity/subjectivity. optimism (“a tendency … to dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a situation”96) Moreover. the sorts of rewards and punishments upon which BAS/BIS focuses are social rewards and social punishments.reference. as will be seen below. It appears that the valence model relies upon objective notions of positive and negative. the sensitivity model includes valence as a special case. while another may withdraw from it as a punishment.g. the valence 95 96 http://dictionary. the same individual can approach the same stimulus optimistically one moment. taste of sugar) and non-social sensory punishments (e. Although stimuli in such experiments are often deemed as objective “rewards” or “punishments”. In other words. Conceptually. pin prick).g. subjectivity plays a significant role in the sensitivity model. one individual may approach it as a reward.com/search?q=pessimism http://dictionary. This is in contrast with nonsocial sensory rewards (e. for the same stimuli. and pessimistic negative emotions. In contrast. and since pessimistic states of mind are most often accompanied by negative emotions.
As of this writing. this is the case for BAS.99 In 97 98 Davidson (2003) at 658.theory serves as a useful. Davidson had discovered that the BAS/BIS Scales (sensitivity model) are more accurate than PANAS (valence model): More recently with Sutton … we showed that scores on a self-report measure designed to operationalize Gray’s concepts of Behavioral Inhibition and Behavioral Activation (the BIS/BAS scales …) were even more strongly predicted by electrophysiological measures of prefrontal asymmetry than were scores on the PANAS scale … . 156 . Davidson asserts that sensitivity to reward (optimism) is a left PFC function. Harmon-Jones’ work on anger. see also Harmon-Jones/Sigelman (2000) at 7 (Mr. Davidson/Sutton (1997). Mr. Davidson (2003) at 656. approximation for describing the left/right PFC dichotomy. Now. That the sensitivity model was more apt than the valence model was evident even before Mr. we are left only with optimism and pessimism. 99 Coan/Allen (2003). and sensitivity to punishment (pessimism). OPTIMISM In his most recent review of the field. Davidson and one by Mr. but BIS is still an open question. Harmon-Jones (1997). a right PFC function. including one by Mr. have confirmed that BAS is mediated by the left PFC. Davidson was ready to altogether let go of the valence model. one might reason that BAS/BIS should be reliably reflected in the PFC because it attempts to measure optimism/pessimism.98 If this assertion is correct.97 Still. albeit crude and limited. As early as 1997. with that model gone. Three independent studies. Mr. it was only in 2004 that Mr. Harmon-Jones speculating that “hope” is the core dynamic of left PFC function). Harmon-Jones.
I often act on the spur of the moment. “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission” 157 . Drive. “Just win. When I go after something I use a “no holds barred” approach. I move on it right away. I usually go all-out to get it. I feel excited and energized. BAS Fun Seeking I will often do things for no other reason than that they might be fun.defining BAS. Figure 10. I get excited right away. I crave excitement and new sensations. When good things happen to me. these three forms of optimism have their own pet idioms: • Reward Responsiveness: “Winning isn’t everything it’s the only thing”. I’m always willing to try something new if I think it will be fun. When I’m doing well at something. and Fun Seeking.# BAS Scale In our current popular culture. BAS Drive When I want something. “Nice guys finish last” • Drive: “Go for it!”. When I see an opportunity for something I like. It would excite me to win a contest. BAS Reward Responsiveness When I get something I want. baby”. If I see a chance to get something I want. Carver and White expanded the conception of optimism to embody three distinct forms: Reward Responsiveness. Messrs. it affects me strongly. I go out of my way to get things I want. I love to keep at it.
For example.• Fun Seeking: “You only live once”. Davidson co-authored. (c) impaired memory for negative self-relevant feedback …and negatively toned autobiographical events …. “Are you having fun yet?” Beyond popular culture. done that”. Where the desire to win becomes obsessive. Repressors … demonstrate a regulatory style that would appear to inhibit the perception of threat and the experience of negative affect and to promote the maintenance of self-esteem. (b) a self-serving hindsight bias …. (e) relative inability to consciously perceive negative affective stimuli under specific conditions …. Fun Seeking is all about the fun. Drive is all about relentless pushing. “Been there.100 This study focused on a certain type of person known as a “repressor”. and (f) of the repressor definition. 100 101 Tomarken/Davidson (1994) Tomarken/Davidson (1994) at 340. the interest in being perceived by others as a winner soon becomes paramount. In this case. (e). such individuals demonstrate (a) a self-serving attributional style …. these three forms of optimism found their way into a ten-year-old study that Mr. In fact. When the pushing becomes obsessive. “self-presentational” concerns become central. and (f) more classically defined defense mechanisms characterized by the inhibition of interpersonal conflict and ambivalent or negative emotions and by selective accentuation of the positive … . maintenance of it requires the pusher to be unaware of “negative stimuli” that could interfere with the pushing. 158 .101 The foregoing definition highlights the “dark side” of blind optimism. Reward Responsiveness is all about winning. Where the pursuit of fun becomes maniacal. (d) attentional avoidance of threatening cues unless provoked by strong self-presentational concerns that may render heightened attention adaptive …. we arrive at elements (d). if we consider the dark side of the three forms of BAS optimism. the pursuer has no time for “ambivalent or negative emotions” and needs to “accentuat[e] the positive”.
In our current culture.##. Of these 90 women. somewhat less than 25% of them were designated as repressors.”105 What is going on here? The researchers suggest various explanations for this conflict concerning BIS. 104 Harmon-Jones/Allen (1997) at 162. affirmative responses to none of those questions suggests anything pejorative about the respondent.103 But a 1997 study co-authored by Mr. In a 1997 paper he co-authored. this 1994 study of repressors found that the repressors are left PFC dominant. Mr. the subjects of this study were 90 women. Davidson reported that BIS is correlated with right PFC. Sutton/Davidson (1997). PESSIMISM Although it seems settled science that BAS (optimism) is mediated by the left PFC.104 And a 2003 study reported only “a weak statistical trend toward relatively greater right frontal activity corresponding to higher BIS scores in the midfrontal region only. I suspect the conflict has to do with the nature of the BIS scale itself.102 Interestingly. 159 .Just as the BAS studies found that BAS is a left PFC function. a good percentage of women are every bit as Martian as most men. Read again the BAS scale shown in Figure 10. Now consider the BIS scale: 102 103 Tomarken/Davidson (1994) at 345. 105 Coan/Allen (2003) at 112. BIS (pessimism) as a right PFC function is still controversial. This study alone suggests that while something on the order of 75% of women may be from Venus. Harmon-Jones found no such correlation. For example. being a person who feels free to “go for it” is not generally frowned upon in current American popular culture.
I worry about making mistakes. I feel pretty worried or upset when I think or know somebody is angry at me. there’s no way of determining that from reading these cold studies. the 160 . Given that all of the BIS experiments mentioned above studied college students. “judgmental” characterizations of themselves? I suspect that the answer to this question depends heavily on the experimental environment. Even if something bad is about to happen is about to happen to me.# BAS Scale The BIS scale asks subjects to admit to the experimenters that they are fearful. hysterical. in our popular culture. these are all pejorative characterizations. I submit that. Fortunately. we will need to look elsewhere for evidence.BIS If I think something unpleasant is going to happen I usually get pretty “worked up”. Did the experimenters create an atmosphere of loving acceptance. the question becomes: What is the likelihood that college-age kids would freely admit to pejorative. [reverse scored] I feel worried when I think I have done poorly at something. in which subjects could feel comfortable in admitting to personal vulnerabilities? Obviously. I have very few fears compared to my friends. So if we are going to conclude that BIS (pessimism) is mediated by the right PFC. anxious. and/or guilt-ridden. I rarely experience fear or nervousness. Criticism or scolding hurts me quite a bit. [reverse scored] Figure 10. hypersensitive.
of the Institute of Neurology.. Davidson’s lab has also generated studies in this specific area. Those latter kinds of studies do not test for the type of optimism and pessimism with which the sensitivity theory of emotional asymmetry deals. 106 107 Davidson (2003) at 656. England. Money is an abstract notion having no meaning outside of social life. (2003). e. So studies that test for glucose taste rewards107 or prickly touch punishments 108 test physical rewards and punishments. In addition. This paper is one among a pair of recent papers published by the Wellcome Department concerning how the PFC relates to monetary reward and punishment. Mr. 2001). MEASURING OPTIMISM AND PESSIMISM DIRECTLY In his 2003 review of the field. Mr.”106 This 2001 O’Doherty study comes out of the Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience. O’Doherty at al. in London.. 108 See. See. 161 .emergence of PET and fMRI have obviated the need to rely on self-report measures like the BAS/BIS Scales.g. Davidson reported that: “[A] a leftsided medial region of the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) appears particularly responsive to rewards whereas a lateral right-sided region appears particularly responsive to punishments (O’Doherty at al. In contrast. Using money as the “carrot and stick. taste and touch are physical sensations that do not depend on social life. Rolls at al. (2002).. So this section focuses on the experiments that study responses to money.” these studies focused on a particular type of social reward and punishment.g. e.
In the money reward/punishment experiments. or 109 110 Sobotka (1992) Sobotka (1992) at 245.e. Nevertheless. subjects faced four possible outcomes: win big money. anticipation. 111 O’Doherty (2001) 162 . Over the past few years. The study found that left PFC was activated during the anticipation phase of the reward trials. the subjects were typically instructed to play a game in which their choices determine a monetary reward or punishment.109 subjects were presented with “reward trials” and “punishment trials”. they were presented with an opportunity to gain the reward (reward trial). Davidson. In the 2001 study cited by Mr.111 the London researchers instructed subjects to play a game on a computer. and right PFC was activated during the anticipation phase of the punishment trials. experience. In these trials. After a delay. that lab has sought to isolate the particular sub-regions of the PFC that play a part in reward/punishment recognition. or to avoid the punishment (punishment trial). rather than identifying hemispheric asymmetry in reward/punishment processing. In an old (1992) EEG study co-authored by Mr. the subject were forewarned about the type of trial they were in. lose small money. and subsequent response. the delay period between the warning. The main focus of this research has concerned the identification of these sub-regions. and the action opportunity). the detailed findings of this research reveal just such asymmetry. win small money. Davidson. The study recorded PFC activity during the anticipation phase of the trials (i. In this game.110 Recent work in this area has come out of the Wellcome Department in London.
163 . fMRI was used to record the responses of the subjects to their gains and losses. (2003) (delving deeper into the various aspects of monetary reward and punishment processing). But a second outcome of greater monetary value than the first would be considered relatively rewarding by all subjects. This suggestion dovetails nicely with one of the fundamental purposes of emotions as described by another researcher out of the Wellcome Department in London: An evolutionary perspective on emotion suggests that environmental events of value should be susceptible to prefrontal perceptual processing. The study found that the greater the monetary gain. 114 See also O’Doherty et al. the study did not find this asymmetry for any particular level of gain or loss. This last point highlights the subtle subjective nature of optimism and pessimism. and that the right PFC attends to and processes socially punishing cues and outcomes.114 These studies suggest that the left PFC biases our attention to socially rewarding cues. the greater the left PFC activation.lose big money. O’Doherty (2001) at 97-98.112 Conversely. and processes our response to receiving such rewards.113 Interestingly. One means of 112 113 O’Doherty (2001) at 96. the greater the right PFC activation. but not for absolute ones. The game required the subjects to be constantly deciding on the best choice to make to maximize gain and minimize loss. The choices made by the subjects during the game determined the outcomes. the greater the monetary loss. This may explain why PFC asymmetry was found for relative rewards and punishments. but as a punishment by another. A particular outcome might be considered as a reward by one subject.
“Approach” becomes “sensitivity toward social reward”. on 115 116 Dolan (2002) at 1191. Hellige observed that whereas our right hemisphere perceives both positive and negative emotion in others. On the question of experienced emotional valence. negative ones. it takes little imagination to consider why an optimist expecting and acknowledging reward might. both hemispheres are active in our personal experience of emotion. “approach versus withdrawal” as a description of left versus right PFC asymmetry in emotion acquires specific meaning. where “reward” is defined subjectively. the right. with the left mediating positive emotions. Hellige (1993) at 52. instead. This explains the role of the right PFC in detecting the emotions of others. They are. 164 . Sensing reward. Similarly.achieving this is emotion enhancing attention. Finally. Hellige comes from the optimism/pessimism dichotomy. leading to increased detection of emotional events. and since certain social punishments can kill us but no social reward can.115 Under this formulation. note that the optimism/pessimism dichotomy provides a straightforward answer to a question posed by cognitive asymmetry expert Joseph Hellige. Concerning this observation. where “punishment” is a subjective notion. more or less unconscious biases. “withdrawal” becomes “sensitivity toward social punishment”. it falls to the pessimist to be well aware of the emotions of others. Since the pessimist attends to social punishment and the optimist to social reward.”116 A simple answer for Mr. the optimist feels free to train his attention on himself. Mr. Mr. Hellige noted: “It is instructive to consider how these different findings might be reconciled. But these are not conscious decisions.
This is because it has some shortcomings. through EEG. Sounds like we have winner here. it is presently not airtight. however. and its shortcomings: • Messrs. It goes further and elegantly answers open questions in the field of cognitive neuroscience.e. and/or PET). • Mr. Thus optimism/pessimism not only falls out of direct recent research. 117 ##explain 165 .117 • Mr. The following describes the case presented by this chapter. to my knowledge. there are some suggestions in his recent work that he hasn’t quite let go of the notion of positive/negative traits (valence).average. and BAS/BIS. feel more positively and less negatively than a pessimist expecting and acknowledging punishment. claim direct validation for the theory that BAS (optimism) is mediated by left PFC. Harmon-Jones. Davidson claims direct validation for the theory that optimism/pessimism. ONE CAVEAT Although the case for optimism/pessimism appears quite persuasive. are mediated by left PFC/right PFC. however. they haven’t attempted to verify their claim directly (i. however. fMRI. respectively. they claim they have been unable to verify BIS (pessimism) as a right PFC function. even though this notion seems insupportable. and other researchers. Carver and White claim that BAS/BIS (optimism/pessimism) results from two different brain systems.
respectively. no one has yet disproved this model. This section concludes that PFC asymmetry has a significant impact on physical health. As of this writing. PHYSICAL HEALTH AND PFC ASYMMETRY The remainder of this chapter looks at how PFC asymmetry relates to physical health. even in the absence of a single. widely-accepted line of research supporting this model. and plasticity (the ability to change). Thus. Moreover. that model is currently the only one proposed in the field for clarifying the inherent ambiguity of the approach/withdrawal diathesis. moreover. One critical factor in physical health is the functioning of our immune systems. However. it did so only in the specific context of money gain/loss. these shortcomings precluded the sensitivity model (optimism/pessimism) of PFC asymmetry from being considered conclusively verified as fundamental. to the extent their research unintentionally unveiled optimism/pessimism. the immune system wards off toxins and assists in the repair of damage.• Recent research conducted by the Wellcome Department in London directly demonstrated optimism and pessimism as functions of the left and right PFC. these researchers were not looking specifically for optimism/pessimism. it stands as the one that is most promising and altogether probable. however. peer-reviewed. We begin with physical health.118 In the body. genetics. 118 ## cite for the immune and stress system discussion 166 .
allowing the stress system to draw upon the body’s available energy stores. The immune system and the stress system relate in a roughly zero-sum way. One principal marker of the stress system is the hormone cortisol. where our stress systems act continually. However.In conflict with the immune system is the stress system. This hormone acts as a bodily alarm bell. Faced with a stressful situation. NK cells are generated by the immune system. presence of NK cells in the blood is an indication of a functioning immune system. One main reason for this is that over these long stretches. in the face of momentary stressful situations. the stress system has a dramatic positive impact on physical health. the immune system is functioning. the immune system is compromised. the NK cells attack and destroy the invasive toxins. But if the stress system in invoked. There. over long stretches of time. One principal mechanism of the immune system is natural killer (“NK”) cell activity. and instructing the immune system to “stand down”. and delivered to the sites of toxic invasion. In the short term. the brain signals the adrenal glands ## to secrete cortisol. physical health is impacted negatively. In a truly stressful situation – one in which our lives are threatened – prompt and effective functioning of our stress systems can mean the difference between life and death for us. This provides 167 . Normally. The stress system serves to mobilize the body to respond to a stressful situation. rousing other stress system components into action. the immune system is dampened. In general.
as well as lefties and righties. the latter suggests this release has something to do with hypoactivation (de-activation) of the left PFC. NK cell activity is measured in the blood. the immune systems of righties are the most compromised. In both the human and monkey experiment. the human experiment found the opposite: namely. middle asymmetry groups were studied. Cortisol levels are measured in the saliva or the blood. Studies of both human babies119 and monkey babies 120 have found the same thing: PFC “righties” exhibit higher levels of cortisol activity than “lefties”. the middle group lined up with the lefties. What is unclear is which hemisphere is responsible for the heightened cortisol activity. The monkey experiment found that the middle group aligned with the righties.121 That study found that “[ s]ubjects with greater relative 119 120 Buss (2003) Kalin (1998) 121 Davidson/Coe (1999) 168 . Consistent with this finding. a 1999 study reported on NK cell activity in college age students. For testing the effect of PFC asymmetry on physical health. Whatever the case. neuroscientists have examined cortisol response and NK cell activity.ample opportunity for toxins to enter the body and do their damage. untroubled by the quieted immune system. For examining cortisol. So the former experiment suggests that the activation of right PFC mediates the release of cortisol. studies tend to use infants as subjects because the association of PFC asymmetry with cortisol is much clearer for infants than it is for adults. one thing is clear: among all the asymmetry groups.
left-sided anterior [prefrontal] activation … showed higher levels of NK activity.”122 This study showed directly that the immune systems of lefties tend to be stronger than those of righties. Mr. Davidson participated in each of the cortisol response and NK cell activity studies described above. In his 2003 review paper, he described his most recent extension of this work:
Very recently, we … have extended this work to include measures of in vivo immune function. … [W]e administered an influenza vaccine and measured antibody titers in response to the vaccine at several internals following vaccination. We found that subjects with greater left-sided prefrontal activation at both baseline and in response to influenza vaccine, suggesting more robust immunity in response to vaccination.123
Earlier, this chapter noted the antipathy that some great literary authors express toward lefties, and their shortcomings with respect to metaphorical and holistic awareness. There I said the lefties would “have their revenge”. This section describes that revenge. Righty says: “Lefty, you are one ignorant literalist.” Lefty responds: “Make that blissfully ignorant, righty. And when flu season comes around next, feel free to borrow my Kleenex and chicken soup, because you’ll be needing them, and I won’t.”
GENETICS AND PFC ASYMMETRY
Given the dramatic differences between left and right PFC on the matters of optimism, pessimism, awareness, and physical health, two questions arise: Does trait PFC asymmetry have a genetic basis? Can trait PFC asymmetry be altered through behavior? This section looks at the former question; the next section, at the latter.
Davidson/Coe (1999) at 106. Davidson (2003) at 660.
The human baby experiment mentioned in the previous section sheds some light on the first question. This 2003 experiment is the same as the one discussed earlier in this chapter. That study examined PFC asymmetry in 6month old babies, both at baseline, and during the stressful “stranger approach”. That this study recorded reliable PFC asymmetry in 6-month old babies suggests a genetic origin of this asymmetry. Of course, it’s entirely possible that environmental events (“nurture”) during the six months outside of the womb, or during the previous nine months inside, caused the asymmetry. But it seems at least equally likely that genes (“nature”) played the dominant role. One aspect of this study appears, on initial review, to suggest the environmental answer. The study included five mono-zygotic twins. This means these twins came from the same egg and sperm; thus they share the same genes. For only one of these five sets, the two twins fell into the same PFC asymmetry group (e.g. right-dominant) during the stressful event (“stranger approach”). That means the twins of the other four sets presumably exhibited different PFC asymmetry. If PFC asymmetry was a genetic characteristic, one might have expected every set to fall into the same asymmetry group. However, this expectation is not well founded. Earlier, this chapter explained that individuals frequently exhibit variability in patterns of PFC asymmetry. Most days, for example, a certain person might exhibit right-sided dominance. But on certain other days, the same person might fall into the middle group. This dynamic is the exception to “test-retest” reliability. The other relevant dynamic here is the complex relationship between trait and state asymmetry. This baby experiment found that trait asymmetry (i.e.
asymmetry measured at baseline) was only weakly correlated with state asymmetry (i.e. asymmetry measured during stranger approach). Indeed, the researchers found that cortisol activity was associated only with trait rightdominant PFC asymmetry, not state.124 As noted earlier, as of this writing, no systematic studies have been conducted explaining this complex trait-state relationship, let alone discovering the causes of variability. It is entirely possible that the variability observed in PFC asymmetry between test and retest, and between trait and state, is caused by environmental factors. Perhaps one the twins was just having a difficult day and that explains the difference in asymmetric pattern. If this is so, then the findings of this baby experiment on mono-zygotic twins are inconclusive on the question of genetic causation. As of this writing, the most that can be said about a genetic origin of trait PFC asymmetry is a solid “maybe”.
PLASTICITY AND PFC ASYMMETRY
If it turns out that patterns of trait PFC asymmetry have genetic origin, critical questions arise: Are lefties condemned to blissful ignorance? Are righties sentenced to a lifetime of sickly, miserable awareness? The answer coming out of neuroscience is a resounding “No!”. The brain is much more plastic than that. Plasticity refers to the ability to develop new pathways among the neurons, and even in some cases, to generate new neurons (“neurogenesis”). Put simply, plasticity concerns change in the operation of the brain. Among the beneficial aspects of plasticity is the process of “transforming emotional
Buss (2003) at 17.
habits.”125 Since, as we’ve seen, PFC asymmetry plays a large role in emotional habits, the discussion here on brain plasticity focuses on the alteration in patterns of PFC asymmetry. As of this writing, neuroscience seems rather confident of the claim that transforming PFC asymmetry is possible. Since the field currently focuses more on the downside of extreme right PFC dominance, and less on that of extreme left PFC dominance, work in this area concerns the amelioration of right dominance. But although the field seems confident of the possibility of transformation, it is far less confident about the methods for accomplishing that. Undoubtedly, the pharmaceutical industry is watching this area closely. One need not strain one’s imagination to picture adverts for an “Optimism Pill” on weekday morning television programming (some might say we are already there). For now, at least, neuroscience seems more interested in publishing studies concerning behavioral, rather than pharmaceutical, methods for achieving this transformation. Methods currently identified include biofeedback training, massage therapy, and music therapy. transformation, child abuse has been implicated. Concerning negative In addition, although
meditation does not currently seem to implicate PFC asymmetry, it does appear to bear on a pattern of immune response that correlates with left PFC dominance. Concerning biofeedback training, Mr. Harmon-Jones and colleagues published a study in 2001 in which the subjects were 18 women aged 18-38.126 The women were fitted with EEG caps, and were asked to listen to the sound of
Davidson (2003) at 655. Allen/Harmon-Jones (2001).
continuous tones. Among these tones was a high-pitched, “reward” tone. The subjects were instructed to “try to make the high tone stay on.”127 Evidently, this involved “focus[ing] on the high tone.” In the experiment, the 18 women were divided into two groups: LEFT and RIGHT. For the LEFT group, the experiment nudged the subjects toward left PFC activation. That is, the high tone would sound only if PFC asymmetry in the subject had shifted sufficiently toward the left. For RIGHT subjects, the dynamic was opposite. The study found that the training worked. Specifically, subjects trained LEFT did exhibit greater relative left PFC asymmetry; and subjects trained RIGHT showed the opposite transformation. Interestingly, the results for “right” training were better than those for the “left” training. For these 18 subjects at least, it appeared that it was easier to train greater pessimism into them than greater optimism. Moreover, although training-directed changes to PFC
asymmetry were observed in this experiment, there was no suggestion that these changes were persistent. Short-term changes in PFC asymmetry have also been observed in response to massage therapy and music therapy.128 Although short term, the researchers reported both therapies to be “extremely effective”. Concerning music therapy, they explained:
[A]fter only 20 minutes of music (in this case, rock music), 10 of the 12 depressed mothers showed an attenuation of right frontal EEG activation, moving toward symmetry or toward left frontal EEG activation … . The two adolescents whose EEG patterns did not change claimed that they did not enjoy rock music. When
Allen/Harmon-Jones (2001) at 687. Field (1998)
174 . Davidson was not referring to PFC activation. … [Also].their favorite music (classical) was played. As he reports: We predicted that we would find significant changes in prefrontal as well as central electrode locations. but with neither greater left PFC 129 130 Field (1998) at 1308.130 Observe that this study concerned. but their left hemispheres lagged substantially behind. Presumably. The final method discussed here concerns the practice of meditation. developmental asymmetries are even more difficult to ameliorate. 131 Davidson/Kabat (2003) at 662-663. what can be said about meditation is that this practice is correlated with a greater immune response.131 In referring to “anterior activation” in the preceding paragraph. not so much PFC asymmetry in activity. … The fact that there was no significant increase in dispositional positive affect in the meditation group may be related to the failure to detect increases in left prefrontal activation. It is unclear why our most consistent findings were observed at the central leads. Harvard researcher Martin Teicher is a leader in this field. … The right hemispheres of abused patients had developed as much as the right hemispheres of the control subjects. but rather PFC asymmetry in development. As of this writing. He has written: Our research team used this technique [EEG coherence] in 1997 to compare 15 healthy volunteers with 15 child and adolescent psychiatric patients who had a confirmed history of intense physical or sexual abuse. they too experienced a shift toward symmetry. Mr. Mr. we found that subjects in the meditation group showed a larger increase in antibody titers to the [administered] influenza vaccine compared with the controls … . Davidson discussed his recent study on meditation: We found that subjects in the meditation group showed an increase in left-sided anterior activation whereas subjects in the wait-list control group showed a change in the opposite direction. Teicher (2002). This anomalous result showed up regardless of the patient’s primary diagnosis.129 Tragically. more pervasive changes – perhaps permanent ones – have been recorded as a result of child abuse. … [T]he effect extended throughout the entire left hemisphere. In his 2003 review paper.
This is because the diatheses coming out of cognitive neuroscience – parts/whole. the advantage that lefties have over righties is that. local/global. However.asymmetry nor greater optimism. perhaps the term “easily attained” is a tad optimistic here. that PFC asymmetry in emotion is about optimism/pessimism – then this imbalanced relationship may soon witness a reversal. even if the state of insufferable. They appear to be two different roads heading to the same place. Earlier this chapter discussed the “revenge of the lefties”. perpetual happiness remains a remote possibility for righties. text/context. That is. The argument for this is a short one: 175 . poor neglected sibling of its celebrated cognitive twin.) COGNITION: MERELY A SPECIAL CASE OF EMOTION? The final subject of this chapter concerns some speculation of mine about the proper relationship between cognitive neuroscience and affective neuroscience. Affective neuroscience is the recently emerged. and the effects of meditation. seem to be two different ways of impacting this third process. for evening the score. analytic/holistic – seem merely to be special cases of optimism/pessimism. Left PFC activation. (But if it takes optimism to see this. Earlier. this latest research provides righties with a secret weapon: meditation. This suggests the existence of a third process that mediates the immune response. the former naturally have stronger immune responses than the latter. all things being equal. or even to want it. Namely. But if the conclusion of this chapter is correct – namely. this chapter explained that the former has long dominated the study of the brain. the state of physical health is easily attained.
the cost of that failure is merely a missed opportunity. If optimism fails to notice a survival-enhancing prospect. analytic/holistic. this failure will prove to be the organism’s last. If the organism fails to spot even just one such threat. This is because optimism concerns sensitivity toward survival enhancing prospects. These are conscious processes. There is the “hot”. while pessimism concerns toward threats to survival. then the role of PFC asymmetry in modulating optimism/pessimism emerges as fundamental. So optimism is best served with attention attuned relatively narrowly. Now threats to survival can come from any direction. text/context. in contrast. and there also is 176 . has no such need. Indeed. But this dichotomy aptly describes parts/whole. humans can be thought of as survival machines. Optimism. the greater the chance optimism has of realizing the promising prospect. This suggests that the appropriate level of sensitivity of optimism/pessimism is narrow/broad. local/global. Pessimism needs to be sensitive to everyone and everything. In general. the more concentrated the focus. If this is so. In fact.According to evolutionary psychology. emotional form of it. and the threat turns out to be fatal. this discussion highlights the dual nature of optimism/pessimism. optimism is free to focus attention only upon the most promising of prospects. So pessimism requires attention to be attuned relatively broadly. So. generally speaking. missed opportunities rarely prove fatal. just in case.
Indeed. and that humans fall somewhere along the continuum from left to right PFC dominance. using fMRI.the “cold”.132 So optimism/pessimism seems to straddle both emotion and cognition. this book advised that the sausage (the conclusion). was more important than the sausage-making process (the discussion). It is up to that community to decide whether the reasoning that leads up to that conclusion is sound. 177 . it just may turn out that cognitive neuroscience. There. In the study. emotionless form of it. found that response inhibition was strongly associated with right PFC activation. or a Y followed a Y (separated by at least 30 other letters). This chapter has followed a similar dynamic. SUMMARY After a lengthy and somewhat dense discussion. The lengthy and somewhat dense discussion of this chapter concludes that optimism/pessimism is mediated by left/right PFC. that lengthy discussion was included primarily so that Enneagram experts could review and criticize the basis for the conclusion. the domain in which optimism/pessimism emerges most clearly. and aware/unaware fear out of the Enneagram. Chapter 3 concluded by pulling optimism/pessimism. This study. Garavan (1999). respectively.” The extra wrinkle in the experiment was that subjects were asked to inhibit this response if an X followed an X (separated by at least 30 other letters). Hence. the subjects were presented with a stream of letters and asked to make “a button response whenever certain letters (X or Y) were presented. rational. which has long called the shots in brain research. But for 132 A 1999 study seemed to have teased out this latter form of pessimism. will soon find itself taking marching orders from affective neuroscience. This discussion is directed primarily toward the neuroscience community.
now, just note that, at a minimum, the neuroscience literature adequately supports optimism/pessimism as a key description of PFC asymmetry. With that, we are done with mood. We are now ready to enter the c h a m b e r o f f e a r .
Congratulations. Now that you’ve reached Chapter 6, you may be happy to learn that it’s mostly down hill from here. The previous chapter on mood represents the heaviest lifting in this book. This is because the human PFC, which processes mood, is the seat of almost everything that makes us animals uniquely human. As such, that region of the brain is the greatest contributor toward human personality – the subject of this book. The present chapter deals with fear. When speaking of fear and the brain, the star of the show for all vertebrates is the amygdala. Moreover, processing fear seems to be by far the predominant role of this brain region. So whereas the previous chapter ranged well beyond mood, this chapter, more or less, huddles close to fear. The other reason this chapter is lighter than the previous one is that the research on amygdala asymmetry is more straightforward. Recall that the previous chapter lacked even a single study directly finding
optimism/pessimism to be the core model of PFC asymmetry in emotion. Due to this absence, the previous chapter painstakingly cobbled together this model from a range of authorities. In this chapter, the central model holds that aware fear and unaware fear are mediated by left and right amygdala, respectively. In support of this model, this chapter presents a relatively compelling (and circa the present, uncontradicted) study directly on this point. However, on the question of persistent individual differences regarding asymmetry, the research in this chapter is far less developed than it was in the
previous chapter. The best the current amygdala research can do on this question is to suggest provocative clues. So take heart. If the previous chapter bogged you down, the present one should roll along.
What Mr. Davidson is to the study of mood and the PFC, Mr. LeDoux seems to be to the study of fear and the amygdala. In addition to his myriad papers, Mr. LeDoux has published two recent, leading books in his field of specialty: The Emotional Brain and Synaptic Self. The first book confines its analysis pretty much to the amygdala and fear. The second book extends the work of the first book, addressing subjects beyond the amygdala and fear. Although Mr. LeDoux has focused his research on rats, rather than humans, that research has served as the principal foundation for much of the human amygdala research. This reliance on the rat research appears valid because the newer brain technologies – PET and fMRI – have "been very successful in showing that many of the basic fear conditioning observations in animals apply equally to the human brain.”133 In fact, all vertebrates (reptiles, birds, and mammals) have an amygdala.134 The principle function of the amygdala is the mediation of fear. But as Mr. LeDoux makes clear, the amygdala plays the lead role in the unconscious processing of fear,135 rather than in the conscious experience of fear:
133 134 135
SS at ##. SS at ##.
[E]motion can be defined as the process by which the brain determines or computes the value of a stimulus. Other aspects of emotion then follow from this computation. First, emotional reactions occur. These overt bodily responses and associated changes in internal body physiology are the advance guard of emotional responsivity. Subsequently (at least in humans), a feeling emerges as we become aware that our brain has determined that something important is present and we are reacting to it.136
In the preceding paragraph, Mr. LeDoux defined "emotion" to concern the unconscious processing of fear – the domain of the amygdala. He used the term "feeling" to refer to the conscious experience of it – the domain of the PFC. Moreover, he makes clear that feeling follows emotion. With Mr. LeDoux's seminal work serving as a touchstone, a mountain of research has grown in recent years concerning the human amygdala. Attempting to make some sense of this explosion in the volume of published papers, some researchers have recently published reviews of this emerging field. One such review is by M. Davis and P.J. Whalen137, and another by David H. Zald138. These reviews serve as excellent starting points for diving into the field. One point these reviews make clear is that the amygdala processes not only aversive, negative stimuli. While that seems to be its dominant function, the amygdala also seems to play some role in the processing of certain attractive, positive stimuli.139 Evidence for this latter function is relatively scant, albeit persistent. It seems that experimentally inducing this positive effect is difficult to achieve consistently. Still, some patterns seem to be emerging here. Positive stimuli for which amygdala activation has been observed include:
SS at ##. ## 138 ## 139 Davis & Whalen (2001) at 13, 20.
• • •
viewing cocaine paraphernalia by a cocaine addict140 viewing pornography by males141 smelling food by hungry subjects142 Although this "positive valence" research is scant compared with the
"negative valence" research, it does serve a crucial function.
It serves to
illuminate the amygdala as a fundamental tool of survival. It is a tool that scans the environment and identifies potential punishments and rewards. Apparently, the amygdala is the common seat of both fear and desire. Notice, however, that the amygdala does not process the experience of reward/pleasure or of punishment/pain. That function is left to the
pain/pleasure centers of our brain. Those centers register the actual "ouch!" or "aaah" sensations that we feel. The amygdala serves instead to recognize situations in which big "ouches" and certain "aaahs" are likely to arise.143 For the most part, this chapter confines its focus to the voluminous fear/punishment branch of amygdala research, and leaves aside the scant research on the amygdala’s role with respect to desire/reward. However, in Part Three, this latter research will be re-introduced in a discussion on the interaction between the amygdala and PFC, and how that interaction may give rise to personality.
## ## 142 ## 143 Davis & Whalen (2001) at 19 (amygdala involved in “process[ing] the social signals of fear”) and 24 (“anticipation of shock often leads to more fear … compared to the actual receipt of shock”).
the amygdala engages in expression by “sounding an alarm” within the body. ## Morris (2002) -. With this alarm ringing. when the same or sufficiently similar stimuli reappear. after a number of such false alarms. recognition occurs – i.PAF ## Adolphs (2001) ## Buchanan/Adolphs (2001) ## Dolan (2002) 183 . Finally. implicit learning is the process through which the amygdala associates surrounding stimuli with the pain. termination involves deactivating the amygdala in the case that the alarm proves false. These stages are: 1. Termination 5. Once recognition has been made. The discussion begins with the observation that the amygdala progresses through five principal stages in response to aversive stimuli.e. Implicit learning 2. habituation is the process through which the amygdala “unlearns” the association between the stimuli and pain. Habituation The process begins with the experience of pain (or expected pain). Recognition 3. At a later time. Upon this experience.But for now. Expression 4. The following five sections walk through these five stages of amygdala processing in greater detail. the amygdala recognizes the stimuli as ones harkening pain. there is much to be discussed concerning the amygdala and fear.
They found that across the whole brain amygdala activity during conditioning was most directly related to activity in subcortical visual processing areas. Mr. From there. including an area of the visual thalamus. Mr. and smell all make their way from the sensory organs to the thalamus. This finding thus indicates that unconscious emotional learning occurs through the path from visual sensory areas of the thalamus to the amygdala. The low road ferries stimuli registered by passive perception (see Chapter 5) directly to the amygdala. touch. In 1999. but not consciously aware. taste. these sensations are relayed to different regions of the brain. LeDoux’s research on the mammalian brain144 reveals a "high road" and a "low road" of information traveling to the amygdala.146 Apparently. association. and perception. sound. On the issue of perception. there are three relevant concepts: subconscious. LeDoux explains: [The researchers] asked which brain areas seemed changed in a way that would indicate connectivity with the amygdala. The thalamus serves as a sort of crossroads for sensory stimuli. 146 SS at 220. 184 . at 214 Morris (1999). That is. The low road is indeed used in both the rat and human brain (emphasis added).7. the low road reaches the amygdala via the nearby thalamus. we all have more than a little bit of rat in us. Mr.145 Those researchers used “subliminal” stimuli of which the subjects were subconsciously aware. Specifically. In this definition. sensations of sight. 144 145 SS at 123: Figure 5. One such region is the amygdala. Particularly significant was the fact the amygdala activity was not at all related to activity in the area of the visual cortex.STAGE 1: IMPLICIT LEARNING Implicit learning is the subconscious association of perceived stimuli with experienced pain. other researchers discovered the same low road in humans. LeDoux discovered the low road through his research on rats.
respectively. he may feel his heart jump even if doesn’t see the dog. and facilitate the recording of that association in memory. memory. hippocampus and cortex – corresponding. in contrast. 148 ## cite LeDoux 185 . to perception. Via this path. his heart may jump. both directly concerning the painful stimulus and generally concerning the environment. but it may also associate many other circumstances surrounding the painful situation – including sights. The person’s amygdala will associate not only that particular dog with pain. roughly. But since the low road ferries “quick and dirty” information. So the amygdala perceives stimuli through at least two different sources: directly via the passive perception low road. and indirectly and in a preprocessed form via the PFC high road. the PFC sends processed stimuli to the amygdala. The second concept at issue here is association. the association is broad and crude. and consciousness. LeDoux says that the low road provides "quick and dirty" information to the amygdala. even though that dog is 147 Actually there are three inputs to the amygdala – thalamus.147 Mr. the job of the amygdala is to associate that stimuli with the experienced pain. For example. the next time the person turns the corner to walk down that same block. The bite is painful. LeDoux offers an example of a person walking down a street.The high road is a path between the PFC and the amygdala. Davis & Whalen (2001) at 13. sounds. tactile sensations. Or the next time he sees any dog. Mr. With the stimuli perceived by the amygdala via the low road. provides "slower but accurate" information.148 Suddenly. a dog races out from a side yard and bites the person. The high road. smells. and emotional states.
the amygdala says: “Hey. Although that aspect is conscious. Recall that the PFC consciously processes stimuli. STAGE 2: RECOGNITION With implicit learning having drawn an association between pain and certain stimuli. 186 . the subconscious aspect comes in when the amygdala implicitly learns that the stimuli harkens pain. Davis & Whalen (2001) at 14.150 The notion here is that while the amygdala is trying to recognize certain stimuli that it previously associated with pain. but strong implicit memory. than unambiguous stimuli. Moreover. we learn things we don’t even know we are learning. This suggests that we humans are about much more than simply what goes on inside our conscious minds. Adams (2003).149 This means that implicit learning happens outside of our conscious awareness.different from the biting dog. The point here is that the amygdala casts a wide net around the circumstances surrounding pain. as we’ll see below.no explicit memory. Adolphs (1998) (amygdala necessary for fear of novel threatening faces). isn’t that stimulus the same one I perceived earlier during that painful time?” Interestingly. the amygdala is now ready to recognize those stimuli should they arise again in the future. Davis & Whalen (2001) at 24 (“amygdala is especially sensitive to the uncertainty of stimulus contingencies”) and 26. The third issue here is the subconscious nature of association. the initiation of amygdala expression is also a subconscious dynamic. With recognition. This is the case even for the high road from the PFC to the amygdala. it is 149 150 SS at 224 . the amygdala is more prone to recognize ambiguous stimuli. The high road ferries this consciously processed stimuli to the amygdala. Via the amygdala.
The amygdala says: “I’m treating that squiggly thing on the ground as a snake” (even though it might turn out to be only a curved stick). the amygdala activates. amygdala activation sounds an alarm. The scariest movies are not the ones in which the frightening presence is displayed in detail. Dolan (2002) at 1192. toward the body. Notice that this heightened activation for ambiguous stimuli highlights our common experience with scary movies. AMG used for both learning and remembering fearful events. "surprising" or "ambiguous" stimuli [citations omitted]. The purpose of the upstream signal is to marshal the brain’s attention on the 151 152 Davis & Whalen (2001) at 14. such as novel. at 1192.151 Mr.tells us what to look at. at 1193] STAGE 3: EXPRESSION Once the amygdala has recognized certain stimuli as ones associated with pain.especially alert to ambiguous stimuli that only might turn out to be that certain stimuli. toward the rest of the brain. and downstream. and sends that alarm upstream. better memory goes to survival. Davidson describes this "alarm bell" function as follows: Extant evidence is consistent with the argument that the amygdala is critical for recruiting and coordinating cortical arousal and vigilant attention for optimizing sensory and perceptual processing of stimuli associated with undetermined contingencies. Davidson (2003) at 657 187 . sounding an alarm bell to which expression responds. Footnotes: [## AMG mediates perception . The scariest ones are those in which the door handle is turning but we don't know for sure whether that harkens the frightening presence.152 Stated another way.
We have to learn what to be afraid of. In the coming days and even years later. 153 154 SS at 226-229 “In fact. Our hearing has become acute.154 Although we conclude there is no danger. 156 Davis & Whalen (2001) at 17. Our attention has become rapt. There are others that we don’t even notice.157 The preceding discussion describes “loud” episodes of amygdala expression.ambiguous stimuli.” Davis & Whalen (2001) at 17. SS at 221-223.153 The purpose of the downstream signal is to mobilize the body for action – specifically. not only is our heart thumping. Think of being jolted awake in the middle of the night by a sound. the amygdala depends for its activation on blood flow. In that circumstance. LeDoux explains: We don't have to learn to freeze or raise blood pressure in the presence of dangerous stimuli. Davis & Whalen (2001) at 23. “Expression” refers to this heightened response of mind and body. its initiation is subconscious. 155 ## amplification of memory.156 As Mr. We don’t learn amygdala expression. expression is simply part of the human condition. an attention or orienting reflex was the most common response elicited by electrical stimulation of the amygdala. we are experiencing amygdala expression. 188 . for fight or flight. Like all brain regions.155 But these are just the powerful effects on our mind. While implicit learning and recognition involve learning. our heart pounding. we may retain a vivid memory of that disturbance. for the brain is programmed by evolution to do these things. In our bodies. This process is automatic. But the amygdala is capable of initiating “quieter” expressions too. registering every squeak. And these are just the bodily effects we notice. our entire mind focused on the disturbance. we still have difficulty getting back to sleep. but not how to act afraid. our palms have become moist. 157 SS at 213.
it’s only a movie.” actually does work.Blood flow can vary in terms of both rate and duration. Research suggests that the high road from the PFC is critical to termination. in order for the amygdala to respond to fear reactions. That is.159 Recall that consciousness appears to do its work within working memory of the PFC. a mechanism is needed for calming things down if the excitement turns out to be a false alarm (or. STAGE 5: HABITUATION Repeated “false alarms” tend to result in amygdala habituation. That is. So during scary movies. see also Beauregard (2001) (conscious effort to dampen arousal response from viewing pornography dampened amygdala). at least. when the prefrontal region is active. making it harder to express fear. LeDoux explains: [Research] suggests that the prefrontal cortex and amygdala are reciprocally related. the amygdala would be inhibited. This mechanism is “termination”. recent studies with humans have shown that a conscious effort to reduce a negative mood dampens activity in the amygdala. Habituation is the flip-side of the amygdala’s propensity to react to novel or ambiguous stimuli. Mr. These variances modulate the degree and duration of amygdala activation.158 Consistent with this. and thus expression. By the same logic. see Davidson (2003) at 662. the prefrontal region has to be shut down. 189 . if the ambiguities have been resolved). after repeated exposure to the novel or ambiguous 158 159 SS at 217 Schaefer et al. telling us ourselves “it’s only a movie. 2002. Termination involves deactivating the amygdala. STAGE 4: TERMINATION With mind and body on high alert due to amygdala expression.
expression. subjects place their heads inside of large. That is. Davidson has encouraged a rigorous. amygdala research would seem to amount to the mythical challenge of sailing between Scylla and Charybdis. So the subtle challenge for the researcher is to get the subject’s amygdala to habituate to the experimental setup before recording the activation sought in the experiment. and “affective style” – to refer to various aspects of this approach. systematic approach to studying individual differences with respect to these stages. This makes some people nervous. and the ambiguity has been resolved.stimuli. He has used different terms – "affective chronometry". which results from their amygdala activating. Thus. the subject has become “habituated” to the stimulus. “affective reactivity”. Roughly speaking. But repetition is the trigger for habituation. Yet some degree of repetition is needed because the amygdala of some subjects activates in response to the experimental setup alone. this 190 . But that activation must be recorded before the amygdala habituates to the experimental stimulus. termination. and habituation. Mr. with amygdala experiments. the novelty has worn off. and the amygdala does not activate. The preceding five sections canvassed the five principal stages of amygdala activation: implicit learning. imposing PET and/or fMRI machines. Habituation would tend to throw a wrench into amygdala studies. The point of any study is to demonstrate a phenomenon through repeatable experiment. recognition. and as of this writing. Add to this pressure the large expense of PET and fMRI testing environments.
as the following discussion indicates. the field of neuroscience offered no direct answer to this question. AMYGDALA ASYMMETRY Up to this point in this chapter. When it comes to amygdala activation. this chapter will focus on the differences between the left and right amygdala. For the next few sections. Concerning asymmetry. are some people lefties. What is the functional difference between left and right? 2. the second question is still unresolved. the answers to these questions were. and how long it takes him to "get over it". the discussion has treated the amygdala as a single brain region. and “yes”. On the second question. Common experience tells us that different people score differently on these measures. respectively. others righties. Still. there are two sides to this region. as of this writing. Do individuals exhibit persistent patterns of asymmetric dominance? In the previous chapter concerning the PFC. and still others middies? As of this writing. the research seems to suggest that the answer is “probably”.approach seeks to record attributes such as how "touchy" a subject is. Davidson. optimism/pessimism. These factors contribute plenty to our personalities. and still others as middies. research revealed some subjects to be lefties. Actually. others righties. I am unaware of researchers following this promising suggestion of Mr. just as with the PFC. However. Concerning the amygdala. how high his "stack blows”. 191 . there are two key questions: 1.
In their experiment. the next section addresses the first question. AWARE FEAR V.160 A primary conclusion arising from this study is that the left amygdala mediates aware fear. while the right mediates unaware fear. this section explains how that formulation gives rise to the aware/unaware dichotomy.161 Although this paragraph refers to a left/right dichotomy of “differentiated”/”undifferentiated”. 160 161 Glascher/Adolphs (2003). researchers Jan Glascher of Hamburg. perhaps automatic and relatively undifferentiated emotional.. Whereas the right amygdala seems to provide an overall level of physiological arousal in response to stimuli (Davidson et al.But first. but no right amygdala (the “Only Left” subjects). Glascher/Adolphs (2003) at 10281. the left amygdala provides the better discrimination between different magnitudes of arousal. The authors themselves describe their conclusion as follows: [This study] suggest[s] different and complementary roles for the left and right amygdala in the processing of emotional stimuli. • 12 brain-damaged subjects with a right amygdala. reaction that is mediated by the right amygdala. the researchers studied four types of subjects: • 8 brain-damaged subjects with a left amygdala. it appears there is a reasonably solid answer to the question of functional asymmetry in the amygdala. Presently. That answer is: aware fear versus unaware fear. … There might be an initial. UNAWARE FEAR In 2003. and Rudolph Adolphs of Iowa published a study entitled Processing of the Arousal of Subliminal and Supraliminal Emotional Stimuli by the Human Amygdala. 1992). 192 . but no left amygdala (the “Only Right” subjects). Germany. followed by a more differentiated emotional reaction that discriminates differences in arousal magnitude mediated by the left amygdala.
and • 38 normal people with both amygdalae intact (the “Normal” subjects). Then they recorded certain effects of the resulting amygdala expression. 164 Glascher/Adolphs (2003) at 10276. and babies/animals. neutral scenes. nor did they test for amygdala termination or habituation162. The stimuli used in the study comprised various pictures. They did not employ an implicit learning phase. Most subjects did not consciously perceive the subliminal pictures. Subliminal mode was achieved by presenting the pictures for only 30 milliseconds. sweet foods. This procedure allowed them to conduct “apples to apples” comparisons between the subjects. the researchers presented certain stimuli to the subjects in order to trigger amygdala recognition. mutilation. 193 . These stimuli were presented to the subjects in supraliminal mode. Specifically. The study focused on the recognition and expression stages of amygdala processing. the researchers recorded “large interindividual differences in the habituation rate”. followed by a second picture presented for 2 seconds. Glascher/Adolphs (2003) at 10277. But in the few cases that they did. sad scenes.77. 162 In fact. They were classified into the following categories: nudes. 164 The difference between the two modes depended upon how long the particular picture was presented to the subject. But they performed data massaging to “remove the effect of habituation”. household. as well as subliminal mode. 163 The pictures were selected to cover a wide range of arousal potential.• 3 brain-damaged subjects lacking both amygdale (the “Neither” subjects). 163 Glascher/Adolphs (2003) at 10275. the researchers threw out that data in order to keep their results clean. threat.
It is well known in the field that amygdala activation increases SCR level. the right eye. and left versus right presentation. As you can see.167 Self-report involves a subject reporting what he or she believes to be going on in his or her own mind. That is. Glascher/Adolphs (2003) at 10276-77. For assessing what the “amygdala was doing”. while our right eye serves the left hemisphere. during recognition and expression. and what the right was doing. the higher the activation. This study polled different kinds of self-report. 165 166 Glascher/Adolphs (2003) at 10276. the higher the SCR level. subjects were asked to rate how arousing they found each picture to be.165 Recall from Chapter 5 that our left eye feeds light to our right hemisphere. subliminal presentation. by displaying a picture only to. the researchers were able to discern what was happening in the left hemisphere.In addition to this supraliminal/subliminal dichotomy. All of this complexity allowed the researchers to tease out just what the left amygdala was doing. So. the researchers also varied the presentation of pictures along the lines of left versus right hemisphere. 194 . different kinds of pictures. the researchers recorded a certain form of amygdala expression known as skin conductance response (SCR). It involved different kinds of subjects. In fact. say. supraliminal vs. In addition to SCR.166 SCR refers to the ability of the skin to transmit electricity. the study was highly complex. The kind that is of particular interest here is level of arousal. the researchers recorded self-report data. 167 Glascher/Adolphs (2003) at 10276.
But when the researchers obtained self-report data from the subjects.SCR served to indicate how aroused each subject actually had become. Similarly. they would have had no way of knowing whether the subjects were reporting accurately or not. on the other hand. In comparison. Glascher/Adolphs (2003) at 10277-78. nudes. Self-report. 195 . they showed the highest SCR to the emotional stimuli (e. threat. they would have had no way of knowing whether the subjects were aware of their own arousal.170 So the Only Right subjects were actually aroused the most.168 Had the researchers relied solely on self-report. the researchers found that the mean arousal level of the Only Right subjects was slightly higher than even that of the Normal subjects. mutilation). In fact. 170 Glascher/Adolphs (2003) at 10279-80. the Normal and Only Right subjects were actually aroused the most. the researchers found that the Normal subjects and the Only Right subjects showed the highest level of amygdala expression. served to indicate how aroused each subject thought he or she had become. In the study. the SCR of the Only Left subjects was significantly muted. This powerfully 168 169 Glascher/Adolphs (2003) at 10278-79. but they thought they were aroused the least. But by comparing these two sets of data – self report and SCR – the researchers revealed the level of awareness in the subjects. it turned out that the Only Right subjects rated their arousal level the lowest among all four types of subjects.g. This meant that. had the researchers relied on SCR alone. among all subjects.169 That is. and SCR for the Neither subjects was negligible. Comparing what had actually happened with what the subjects thought had happened was the particularly elegant maneuver of this study.
but is relatively lax in helping consciousness to become aware of that amygdala expression. The researchers found the reverse pattern for the left amygdala. The researchers found that the Normal subjects were able to accurately report their actual level of arousal only when the stimuli were presented to their left hemispheres. How the left amygdala helps consciousness is suggested by the performance of the Only Left subjects. together with the SCR results. This finding relied on the left versus right presentation aspect of the study. But when the stimuli were presented to the right side. Recall from above that the SCR response for these subjects was significantly muted compared to the response of Normal and Only Right subjects. Despite this muted somatic response. This suggests that.and elegantly suggests that the right amygdala surpasses the left in generating amygdala expression. It didn’t matter so long as the stimuli were available to the left side. the Only Left subjects were not quite as accurate in doing so as were the Normal subjects. Glascher/Adolphs (2003) at 10279. the Normal subjects joined the brain. 196 .damaged subjects in their inability to correctly report their arousal level. suggests that the left amygdala surpasses the right in helping consciousness to become aware of our amygdala expression. consciousness of the Only Left subjects had some information that was 171 172 Glascher/Adolphs (2003) at 10278-79. in reporting what they believed to be their arousal level.172 Still. This. the Only Left subjects performed better than did the Only Right and Neither subjects in reporting their actual arousal level. but trails the right in generating amygdala expression.171 This was true whether the stimuli were presented in supraliminal mode or subliminal mode.
It follows from the nature of this study that the available information was left amygdala recognition. The left amygdalae of both Normal and Only Left subjects obtained visual information about the stimuli via both the high road (supraliminal presentation) and the low road (subliminal presentation). increased attention. This information was not available to the Only Left subjects. This would explain why they didn’t perform as well as the Normal subjects on self-report. and that the missing information was right amygdala expression. In addition to self-report on arousal. These effects comprise additional information available to the left amygdalae of the Normal subjects. The study found that all four kinds of 197 . the left amygdalae of the Normal subjects also received additional information not available to the Only Left subjects. they were missing left amygdala recognition. This additional information was the somatic response that resulted from expression of the right amygdala. Since both the Only Right and Neither subjects were missing left amygdalae. Recall that amygdala expression involves effects such as increased heart rate. it does not appear that the right amygdala uses this information to inform consciousness. and elevated SCR. This enabled left amygdala recognition. And even though this somatic response information might have been available to the right amygdalae of Only Right subjects. The final element of the story concerns the valence ratings by the subjects. subjects reported on how positive or negative they found the pictures to be. The following discussion explains this. However. but it was missing some additional information that the Normal subjects had.unavailable to the Only Right and Neither subjects.
The first finding was not necessarily new. But the second finding – left versus right amygdala activation parallels aware versus unaware fear – was new.subjects performed similarly on the valence rating task. This theme has previously emerged in the fields of PFC asymmetry in cognition and PFC asymmetry in emotion. It would seem that other parts of the brain perform this function. This maneuver positioned the Glascher/Adolphs study in an emerging special class of neuroscience research. in general: • the right amygdala surpasses the left amygdala in generating a subconscious fear response. and • neither amygdala is required for awareness of the valence of stimuli. So it doesn’t appear that either amygdala plays a role with respect to awareness of the positive or negative aspect of stimuli. Other researchers had suggested the same thing. emerging theme in neuroscience. 198 . but • the left surpasses the right in informing consciousness as to the existence and level of fear. Summing up. compared with objective processing. OBJECTIVE STIMULI The Glascher/Adolphs study lines up nicely against a persistent. the Glascher/Adolphs study found that. This new finding was made possible by the elegant comparison maneuver described above. SUBJECTIVE PERCEPTION V. This theme concerns the relative prominence of subjective processing.
analytical versus holistic. Chapter 5 concluded that the sensitivity model concerning optimism and pessimism was correct. then it would be text. whereas in your conscious field it could be context. and that the same stimuli presented to the same subject can be perceived as a reward one moment. But recent research has rejected this objective notion in favor of a subjective notion. Rather. A similar pattern was observed with respect to left/right PFC asymmetry in emotion. For example. But shift the subjective conscious field. and as a punishment the next. “example” could be text. 199 . e-x-a-m-p-l-e) would be text. Neuroscience is now saying that one subject’s reward can be another’s punishment.Recall from Chapter 5 that the dominant model of left/right PFC asymmetry in cognition depends upon the conscious field of the subject. whole versus parts. In the conscious field of that second person. it depends entirely upon subjective processing of the objective stimuli. Is that word text or context? The answer depends on your conscious field. The point here is that is asymmetry in cognition does not depend upon objective stimuli. This subjective theory was contrasted with the objective valence theory. With this subjective field defined. If you were looking at the word “example” in the context of the sentence or the paragraph. Now ask a second person to look at that same word.e. meaning accrues to notions like global versus local. and the meanings of these dichotomies shift as well. it would be context and the letters of the word (i. The latter theory ascribed objective positive or negative attributes to stimuli and argued that left versus right PFC tracked these objective attributes. But if you were focusing solely on that word. consider the word “example” in this sentence.
The comparison of these two measures revealed subjective “awareness” as a core metric differentiating the function of the left amygdala from that of the right. the model says that the left amygdalae of all subjects will contribute more toward subjective awareness of that level. 200 .This finding emerged through comparing the responses of subjects to two stimuli that differed with respect to their reward/punishment potential. and how the subjects said they responded. But when the researchers compared responses to one stimuli with responses to the preceding stimuli. That study found awareness emerging from certain amygdala asymmetry data. for some people. while the right amygdalae will contribute more toward generation of that subjective level. and for still others. the PFC asymmetry data remained silent. It said: “optimism and pessimism distinguishes left from right PFC in emotion. But despite 173 O’Doherty (2001) at ##.e. Despite these objective differences. That finding emerged from comparing two different data points: how the subjects actually responded. that same data suddenly spoke up. Note that it is entirely consistent with the Glascher/Adolphs model for some normal subjects to respond to stimuli with a relatively high level of amygdala activation (i. while others respond with a relatively low level (i. their left amygdala is more prone to respond.e. Similarly. relatively jumpy people). for others. relatively calm people). it is entirely possible under the Glascher/Adolphs model that given any stimuli.” This same subjective dynamic exists here in Chapter 6 with the Glascher/Adolphs study.173 When the researchers studied responses to any single stimuli. it is both. it is their right amygdala.
these objective differences, the model says that the left, if it does activate, will serve to assist subjective consciousness, while the right, if it does activate, will generate a subjective response without assisting consciousness. Note further that these three subjective metrics defining asymmetry of cognition, asymmetry of mood, and asymmetry of fear, all place the “observer” in the paramount position. That is, in all three areas of research, the objective stimuli of the experiment is not nearly as important as the subjective perception of that stimuli by the subject (the “observer”). This subjective property seems to line up neuroscience rather nicely with the branch of physics known as “quantum mechanics”. Almost a century ago, led by the work of men like Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, and Neils Bohr, physicists discovered that what we perceive as objective reality is actually a subjective illusion. That is, the common-sense notion that we are merely passive observers of the world around us was proven false decades ago. Still, until recently, statements like this made sense only in the domain of arcane mathematics applied to subatomic workings. But with the emergence of PET and fMRI, neuroscientists are now able to probe the depths of the human mind. And their findings are beginning to hint at these astonishing revelations of quantum mechanics. The skit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail could well have been the following: Bridge Keeper: What is the airspeed velocity of reality? King Arthur: What do you mean? Your reality or mine?
Bridge Keeper: I don’t know that. (The Bridge Keeper is catapulted into the Gorge of Death)
OTHER MODELS OF AMYGDALA ASYMMETRY
The subjective nature of the Glascher/Adolphs model contrasts it with the vast bulk of recent research on amygdala asymmetry. A 2004 study174 performed a comprehensive review of this research. Specifically, this study reviewed 54 papers that reported activation of left and right amygdale separately. Forty-six of these 54 papers were published since 2001. So this review provides a current understanding of this highly active field. The authors of this review analyzed the 54 papers with respect to the models of amygdala asymmetry proposed by them. The authors identified four classes of models being pursued in these papers. In these classes, amygdala asymmetry depended upon: 1. stimulus type (pictorial versus verbal stimuli); 2. elaborate processing (plenty of thinking required versus little or no thinking); 3. task instructions (explicit versus implicit instructions); or 4. habituation as a function of stimulus nature (variety in stimuli versus same kind of stimuli) Notice that all four of these classes describe objective models. That is, under each of the classes, asymmetric amygdala activation is presumed to be a function of objective factors residing outside of the subjective self-appraisal of the subjects. The authors of this review found that the 54 papers supported none of these classes. Thus, as of this writing, there exists no generally accepted objective
model of amygdala asymmetry. It would seem that, generally speaking, the field of amygdala asymmetry is presently barking up the wrong tree. As for the subjective findings of the 2003 Glascher/Adolphs study, the 54 amygdala asymmetry papers neither support nor contradict them. This is because these papers looked for objective responses whereas Glascher/Adolphs found subjective perception. Toward the end of the 2004 review, the authors called for further study of the Glascher/Adolphs model. The authors stated that the collective findings of the 54 papers “remain inconclusive” concerning this model. Accordingly, it’s too soon for the Glascher/Adolphs model to be considered “generally accepted.” To assess whether this model is valid, a study must, at a minimum, record and report amygdala activation data at an individual level. Second, for each individual, it must compare conscious self report against somatic response. Of the dozens of amygdala asymmetry papers I have found on the Internet, none, besides the Glascher/Adolphs paper, perform these two procedures. I did, however, find two papers that satisfied only the first criterion. That is, they recorded and reported amygdala activation data at an individual level. The first study, conducted in 2001, reported that:
… 11 of 12 subjects showed significant activity in the left amygdala. … Although the group composite revealed left amygdala activity, the pattern of amygdala response varied somewhat across individuals, and 7 of 12 individuals showed less extensive but significant right amygdala activation.175
Assuming that the one subject out of 12 who did not show significant activity in the left amygdala did show significant activity in the right, the above results can
Phelps et al. (2001) at 438.
be equivalently described as: 1 out of 12 with right activation, 5 out of 12 with left activation, and 6 out of 12 with activation of both left and right. The second study, conducted in 2002, looked for differences between men and women with respect to asymmetric amygdala activation. The study reported:
The reported left-lateralized amygdala memory correlations were seen in 72% of the  women and reported right-lateralized correlations in 50% of the  men, with the remaining subjects exhibiting very minor to modest lateralization in the opposite direction.176
Another way of saying this is the following: 9 women and 6 men showed relative left activation; 3 women and 6 men showed relative right activation. Whatever the researchers in these two studies were trying to show, one thing they did show was that, presented the same stimuli and given the same instructions, individuals can demonstrate different patterns of asymmetric amygdala activation. This is certainly consistent with the Glascher/Adolphs model. I anticipate that, in the future, more researchers will continue to report asymmetric amygdala activation at an individual level. Further, consistent with the Glascher/Adolphs model, these researchers will probe the righties for their conscious awareness of arousal, as compared with that of the lefties and middies.
TRAIT AMYGDALA ASYMMETRY
The previous chapter explained that it is settled science that individuals differ according to persistent patterns of asymmetric PFC activation. When it
Canli et al. (2002).
comes to the PFC, some people are righties, others lefties, and still others middies. But as of this writing, I am unaware of any analogous direct findings in the amygdala asymmetry research. To my knowledge, no one has yet set out to show that, when it comes to amygdala activation, some people are righties, others lefties, and still others “bothies.” Still, the research offers provocative suggestions that this is indeed the case. First, as the previous section showed, studies that report amygdala activation at an individual level have reported different patterns of amygdala activation (left, right, or both) among different individuals despite the identical stimuli and instructions. Second, the 2004 review of the 54 amygdala asymmetry papers also supports this provocative suggestion. Recall that that review found that no proposed objective model of amygdala asymmetry was supported by the research as a whole. Yet most of these studies did in fact report dominant patterns of activation – whether that pattern was left, right, or both. This means that different studies using the same kind of stimuli or same kind of experimental procedure each reported a pattern, but collectively, the patterns conflicted. This suggests that the subjects for different studies differed, in the aggregate, according to dominant patterns of amygdala asymmetry. That is, some studies seemed to have used subjects who, in the aggregate, tended to be lefties, while other studies used subjects tending to be righties or bothies.
But in presentday America. “corruption”. the stimuli in a 1999 study177 consisted of displayed “neutral” and “threat” words. “distrust”. “follow”. Davidson (2004) at 1400. “disturb”. these words would more likely evoke only social fear. “”opposition”. For example. “conspire”. 179 Zalla et al (2000). Davidson mentioned178 a 2000 amygdala study 179 that used money as the stimuli. Similarly. For example. “intrude”. But the amygdala also responds to social stimuli. this chapter has discussed research that mostly concerns physical fear or desire. the threat words also included notions of a predominantly social nature. All of these studies can be said to have mined the amygdala’s role in mediating physical fear and desire. In a repressive totalitarian regime. the smell of food. “mutilate”). these words could well evoke physical fear. 177 178 Isenberg at al (1999). Except for the indigent. The most that can be said at present about trait amygdala asymmetry is: “probably”. others used pictures of mutilations. “betrayal”.But this is more speculation than firm conclusion. Similarly. desire studies used pictures of nudes. SOCIAL FEARS Up until now. These social words included “blame”. “kill”. “conspiracy”. “molest”. some fear studies used angry faces. 206 . as stimuli. The study reported amygdala activation in response to the threat words. “suspicion”. and cocaine paraphernalia. The study reported amygdala activation upon the winning and losing of money. In addition to words with a physical aspect (e. and “stare”.g. Mr. the prospect of winning and losing money is a matter of pure social desire and fear. “deceive”.
If this “false alarm” persists every night. or just a creak in an old house. we saw that there was a difference between left and right PFC with respect to physical health. Presently. Specifically. is associated with a dampened immune system. This is because amygdala expression is a relatively “expensive” operation within our bodies. Certainly. As for the amygdala. In the former case. rare though it is. But this scenario describes just one sleepless night. In those cases. the “fight or flight” responses initiated by amygdala expression just might save our lives. It depends on whether that bump in the night is evidence of a violent home intruder. Is this state positive or negative regarding our physical health? The answer is: It depends. our sleep is ruined. the home intruder scenario seems to be among the favorite of the gun lobby in America. Whenever such a scenario does occur. there appears to be no significant distinction between left and right amygdala concerning physical health. we can soon find ourselves quite ill. in contrast with left PFC dominance. PHYSICAL HEALTH AND THE AMYGDALA In the previous chapter. It is expensive because it consumes substantial resources and 207 . we are sure to see it on the nightly news. it is believed that either or both amygdalae have roughly the same impact on physical health. That impact arises from the “fight or flight” state that amygdala expression induces. for every such home invasion scenario in the nation. right PFC dominance. Of course. there are probably at least millions of “false alarm” harmless creaks in the night.So the amygdala seems to mediate social fear as well as physical fear.
In sum. the risk of violent death is relatively remote. The amygdala itself doesn’t release these hormones. [##SS at 223] Adrenaline serves to raise the heart rate and elevate blood pressure. for most Americans. cancer. it shuts down other systems critical to our long-term health. This is not surprising given that current evidence of trait amygdala asymmetry is scant. activation of either or both left and right amygdala is detrimental to our long-term health. Amygdala expression achieves these effects through the release of hormones like adrenalin and cortisol. in particular. ## Davis (2000): detail on AMG nuclei GENETICS AND THE AMYGDALA Currently. the immune system. Recall from the previous chapter that cortisol acts to shut down the immune system. But it initiates a cascade of signals that make their way to the organs that release these hormones. stroke) in America. as well as "affective chronometry". Chronically weakened immune systems and chronically elevated blood pressure are believed by many to be key factors over the past century in the prevalence of degenerative disease (e. This includes questions of asymmetric dominance. 208 . this long-term detriment is the price we pay for short-term survival. Of course. one may well ask whether this short-term benefit is worth the cost.expends significant energy. Yet in an age when. If trait asymmetry is still an open question. there seems to be very little data on the role that genes play in amygdala activation.g. Moreover. heart disease. genetic bases for these unproven traits are naturally further off.
The next chapter discusses some negative mental health implications of this over-activity. can the brains of lefties learn to use their right PFC more? Can the brains of righties change to increase left PFC activation? Since both left and right PFC are intimately involved in consciousness. 1999. at latest. ## gene for R AMG.But when neuroscience does get around it. I predict that the field will find what it seems to be finding concerning the genetic basis of trait PFC asymmetry. Hariri (2002) PLASTICITY AND AMYGDALA ACTIVATION With the PFC. Namely. These negative implications concern both left and right amygdala. Francis & Meaney. I expect that these traits will be found to be established. ## mom rat licking & grooming. The reverse pattern is the case for the amygdala. Some of the “but” part arises from the finding that the experiences of early childhood seem to play a significant role concerning amygdala activation. The previous section discussed the negative physical health implications of amygdala over-activity. In other words. the thrust of the plasticity literature concerns activating both sides of the PFC. see Davidson (2003) at 662 209 . rather than in decreasing activity in one side or the other. in early childhood. but …”. the issue of plasticity concerns whether patterns of asymmetric dominance can be changed. So the plasticity question regarding the amygdala is: Can amygdala activation be decreased? The current answer is the literature is “yes.
and if the experience of an over-active amygdala is all we’ve ever known since before memory. or with objective reality (if such a thing exists). and our amygdala is therefore frequently over-active. When those problems grow big enough. see Davidson (2003) at 662 ## but can't just cut out the amygdala One implication of the automatic nature of amygdala expression is the conclusion that (natural) therapies for settling down an over-active amygdala work upstream of the amygdala. we inevitably run into health problems – mental and/or physical. ## overcoming our fears ## Field (1998) ## Davidson/Jackson (2000) ## neurogenesis in adult animal hippocampus. when we were toddlers. then that might serve as what we perceive as reality. such therapies seek to 210 . So few if any of us possess direct knowledge whether. not downstream. That is. And some us patients end up being subjects of the neuroscience studies cited by this book. This is because memories of our own experiences that occurred before the age of three our four are usually quite vague to us at best. we might not be aware of that.## Teicher (2002): effect of childhood abuse on AMG These findings concerning early childhood have significant implications for all of us. If we hadn’t been. we were sufficiently “licked and groomed” by our own caregivers. This is because amygdala activation is an unconscious process. Being unaware that our own reality does not accord with the reality perceived by others. we visit doctors – mental and/or physical.
But if the amygdala does fire.have the amygdala unlearn the overbroad pain associations. this chapter concludes by looking at how this interaction may give rise to human personality. The idea is to encourage the amygdala to forego firing when firing is unnecessary. • • excessive amygdala activation is unhealthy. survival. aware versus unaware fear seems to be the most persuasive theory of left versus right amygdala asymmetry. to the interaction of the amygdala with the PFC. this interaction also reveals how the “survival instinct” in us humans operates. While the amygdala may be the seat of fear in the brain. Finally. and relearn more narrow and accurate associations. we have seen that: • • the amygdala is a the seat of fear in the human brain.180 ## acupuncture: Hui et al (1999) ## meditation: Lazar et al (2000) This concludes the discussion of this chapter that was focused upon solely the amygdala. To this point. the next three sections address fear. and the amygdala is a relatively plastic region in the brain. 211 . and personality. this chapter shifts its focus from solely the amygdala. there is little that can be (naturally) done to stem the initial cascade of expressive effects. Accordingly. 180 Davis & Whalen (2001) at 17 (“plasticity during fear conditioning probably results from a change in synaptic inputs prior to or in the basolateral amygdala. it is the interaction between the PFC and amygdala that fills out the full story of fear. Moreover. rather than from a change in its efferent target areas”). From here on.
the PFC scans the environment intently. and in a form that is slow but accurate. if the amygdala recognizes the information as sufficiently potentially dangerous or thrilling. thus quieting the alarm. When the amygdala sounds the alarm. and we are consciously listening for any further sounds. So the amygdala and PFC serve different. the PFC switches off the amygdala. although returning to sleep may take some time. but especially for significant punishments.FEAR When it comes to processing fear. Our ears have pricked up. while that of the PFC is typically quite conscious. in another corner of the brain. although related. it sounds an alarm waking up the body. 212 . The PFC sends what it finds to the amygdala so that the amygdala can have slow but accurate data. This is the PFC switching off the amygdala. the PFC is also engaged in scanning the environment. assessing the rewarding and/or punishing aspects of the situation at hand. Roughly speaking. Once the PFC has resolved the ambiguity of the general alarm. functions in the processing of fear. During those times. including the PFC. Think again of being startled awake by a bump in the night. Meanwhile. It gets its information both in a form that is quick and dirty. we may begin to relax. the PFC goes on heightened alert. the amygdala and PFC play roles that are independent but complementary. the processing of the amygdala is unconscious. When we determine that the source of the bump is benign. Either way. This is the PFC on heightened alert. it appears that the amygdala serves as an early warning system – one that scans the environment looking out for significant rewards. In addition.
Indeed. mediated by the amygdala. their amygdala did respond. their amygdala seems to have issued an early warning. Recall from early in this chapter the study in which subjects were presented with frightening faces.183 Although the subjects did not consciously perceive the subliminal faces (i. 183 Morris (1998). whereas the PFC is necessary.This dynamic describes our common understanding of fear. this response actually results from the seamless melding of two independent processes – amygdala processing and PFC processing. This dynamic is even clearer in the Glascher/Adolphs study that lies at the crux of this chapter. a 2002 study181 showed that the amygdala is not necessary for the conscious experience of fear. Recall that the Only Right subjects – brain damaged subjects with a functioning right amygdala but with damage to the left – 181 182 Anderson (2002) Davis & Whalen (2001) at 26 (“reported emotion and amygdala activation should not be equated”). In other words.182 Conversely. This second observation – amygdala independence – is critical to the hypothesis of this book. but without the conscious feeling of fear. Thus it bears further explanation. 213 .e. This independence is reflected in the observation that each process can operate without the other. as we have seen. we are capable of experiencing bodily fear. we are able to experience conscious PFCbased fear without the amygdala firing and our body responding. their PFC did not respond). This familiar response feels unitary when we are experiencing it. but their PFC seems to have missed the warning. That is. but in a subliminal manner. However.
Apparently.e. this section began by describing a partnership between the amygdala and PFC in the mediation of fear. This section approaches this question by looking closer at the PFC’s mood processor. One is the amygdala. two other brain regions also play a central role with respect to survival. pessimism. The Glascher/Adolphs study suggests that as between the left and the right amygdala. This Glascher/Adolphs study suggests a refinement of amygdala-PFC independence. But this discussion didn’t explore the nature of the resolution.exhibited the highest amygdala response among all subjects. As seen in this chapter. it wasn’t considered how and whether optimism and pessimism inform this process. yet they displayed the lowest level of conscious awareness of arousal. In Chapter 5. nonsurvival). Specifically. we saw that the PFC generates the mental states of optimism and pessimism. Survival enters the picture due to the fact that insufficient rewards and excessive punishments both lead to death (i.” SURVIVAL In the preceding discussion on fear. Optimism is sensitivity toward reward. the PFC served to heighten attention and resolve ambiguity. the right tends to “go off and do it’s own thing. the left is a more forthcoming partner of the PFC than is the right. It suggests that where the amygdala generates a fear response of which the PFC is not conscious. the amygdala serves as an early warning system for potential 214 . it is specifically the right amygdala that is generating this response. sensitivity toward punishment. In addition to the PFC’s mood processor. In other words. So optimism and pessimism are simply tools of survival.
The third brain region of interest here is the pain/pleasure centers. Further. The amygdala is more abstracted. this difference tracks along the dimension of time abstraction. What may seem imminent may not in fact arise. So we see three brain regions – the PFC’s mood processor. But the job of the amygdala is not to wait to find out whether its hunches play out. “Imminent” is the moment before “now”. Instead. and the pain/pleasure centers – all playing a central role with regard to reward and punishment.punishments and rewards. The following table begins to explain this: Role in Reward & Punishment Pain/Pleasure Centers Amygdala PFC’s Mood Processor experience recognition attention bias Different Functions Concerning Reward and Punishment The pain/pleasure centers are the least abstracted from reward/punishment. Instead of registering the experience of reward and punishment. its job 215 . and the experience of pain that arises from punishment received. the amygdala. But the role of each is quite different. These centers in our brain mediate the experience of pleasure that arises from a reward received. These centers register the actual sensations arising from rewards and punishments at the time they are being received. the amygdala serves only to recognize situations in which reward or punishment seems imminent.
In others words. This crude/refined difference between recognition and attention bias was the subject of a 1999 study. In addition to time abstraction. Specifically.is to “jump the gun” – to anticipate whether the current stimulus harkens impending reward or punishment. while that of the PFC’s mood processor is relatively refined. This was the same game that was used in the 2001 O’Doherty optimism/pessimism study discussed in Chapter 5. this gambling game is "a paradigm 184 Davis & Whalen (2001) (“cells in the … amygdala encode the associative significance of cues. there may be no reward or punishment present. Its role is to bias attention toward prospective or historical rewards and punishments. these processes differ in terms of granularity. is required to guide choice behavior”) at 24.184 This difference between recognition (amygdala) and attention bias (PFC mood processor) bears further exploration. and people with damage to the mood processor of their PFC.185 The study included brain-damaged subjects. Yet the PFC’s mood processor is still active. 185 Bechara/Damasio (1999) 216 . The PFC’s mood processor is the most abstracted from reward punishment. The subjects were instructed to play a gambling game with monetary rewards and punishments. As the researchers in the 1999 study explained. as well as normal controls. There may not even exist the imminent potential for reward or punishment. There were two kinds of brain-damaged subjects: people with damage to their amygdala. relayed from the … amygdala. whereas cells in the [PFC] are active when that information. looking out for reward and punishment. the processing of the amygdala is relatively crude.
As the researchers explained: After the somatic states [bodily responses] of reward and punishment are evoked with individual card draws.."186 The researchers found that the amygdala patients (i. As the researchers explained: The notion that bilateral damage to the amygdala is associated with decisionmaking impairments in the gambling task also is supported by the observation that amygdala patients demonstrate poor judgment and decision-making in their real-life social behavior. subjects lacking the amygdala) were impaired in generating bodily responses (i. The poor decision making associated with the [PFC] patients is related to an inability to integrate effectively all of the somatic state information triggered by the amygdala . 186 187 Bechara/Damasio (1999) at 5473 Bechara/Damasio (1999) at 5480 188 Bechara/Damasio (1999) at 5480 217 .e. The role of the [PFC] comes into play when subjects sort out this conflict and decide whether to seek or avoid the deck. The effect of this impairment was that the amygdala patients didn't feel much when they experienced losses in the game.187 In contrast with the amygdala patients.designed to simulate real-life decisions in terms of uncertainty. like the amygdala patients. However. subjects lacking the PFC mood processor) did generate bodily responses upon winning or losing money. In other words.e. But their reason for doing so was different.e. . no internal “alarm bell”) to rewards and punishments in the game. the PFC patients (i. each deck becomes associated with numerous and conflicting states of reward and punishment. they also played the game poorly. they did feel something..188 This experiment elegantly showed that while the amygdala helps us recognize a situation as important (i. the PFC helps us sort out the complex rewarding and punishing aspects of that situation.e. rewarding or punishing). This made them poor players. and punishment. reward.
This chapter finds support for the theory that left and right amygdala asymmetry tracks along aware versus unaware fear. That the OFC and amygdala are directly connected corroborates the finding that the two regions collaborate with respect to reward/punishment decision-making. PERSONALITY Human personality begins to emerge from the interaction of PFC and amygdala asymmetry. One word of caution seems in order before we begin the analysis of this section. as well as in the 2001 Wellcome Department optimism/pessimism study. This section contains my own analysis of how the findings of the 2001 O’Doherty study on optimism/pessimism and the PFC might relate to the findings of the 2003 Glascher/Adolphs study on aware/aware fear and the 189 SS at 226-229 218 . Personality pokes it head out of the mixing and matching of these four attributes.This study showed that the amygdala and PFC collaborate on decisionmaking with respect to reward and punishment. Another way of getting to the same conclusion involves looking closer at the high road between the PFC and amygdala. So the OFC seems to be part of the PFC's mood processor. One "lane" of this road travels between the OFC region of the PFC and the amygdala. Chapter 5 concluded that left and right PFC asymmetry seems to track along optimism versus pessimism.189 The OFC region is the same region that was issue in this 1999 decision-making study. it is from this collaboration that personality begins to emerge. Further. This is the subject of the next section.
and she is aware of her feeling of discomfort. this would 219 . So for this section. According to the Glascher/Adolphs study. Since she is an optimist. For the analysis of this section. it seems reasonable to conclude that she would typically act to avoid the stimulus that is causing the discomfort. We might even call this person an optimist. she would see it as wise self-preservation. Now consider what should happen when this person’s right amygdala activates out of fear. According to the Glascher/Adolphs study. Now consider what should happen when this person’s left amygdala activates out of fear. some people are “lefties”. let’s begin by considering a lefty. This means that her attention is biased more toward potential personal rewards than toward punishments. she wouldn’t typically view her withdrawal as surrender. this person would tend more toward optimism than pessimism. As of this writing. and still other “middies” of one degree or another. But. This is a person who tends to experience more activity in her left PFC than in her right PFC.amygdala. According to the O’Doherty study and others. being aware of her discomfort. Being an optimist. recall from Chapter 5 that people apparently differ with respect to trait PFC asymmetry. I am unaware of any researchers looking into possible relationships between these two studies. attempt negotiation. sometimes she would challenge the stimulus. With this caveat. To be sure. That is. we’re in uncharted territory. Instead. others “righties”. the easiest thing to do most of the time will be to withdraw with optimism that the withdrawal will relieve the discomfort. other times. this would generate arousal in the person of which she is quite aware.
The Eight. Thus. Recall that the Seven is a smooth. confident. who. If these parallels seem apt. 220 . Being an optimist. the second. The first is the confident. optimist. she seems likely to approach with attention tuned toward potential rewards. In contrast. albeit a bit thick headed. this is not the case. often unknowingly. An entire part is needed because these connections are still relatively loose as of this writing. So they require careful explanation. Being aroused. being aroused. meanwhile. In other words. if you’ve been reading this book closely. you might recognize these two personalities as the Enneagram Seven and Eight. the left PFC/right amygdala personality would seem to be an optimist who wades headlong into trouble. is a blunt. perhaps you may suspect that this book is preparing to wrap up. the confident. However. but being unaware of her own discomfort. bull. this person would become more animated. determined. elegant matador. two different personalities seem to emerge from the intersection of these two studies. with heightened attention – even though she doesn’t know she is aroused. barges headlong into trouble. confident.generate arousal in the person of which she is not aware. she seems likely to approach proximate stimuli with optimism. expert in deftly slipping past and around trouble. crashing into it unawares. optimist. The left PFC/left amygdala personality would seem to be an optimist who tends to float smoothly away from and around trouble. respectively. It is the job of Part Three to draw these connections between the findings of neuroscience and the Enneagram. Now.
The story of how personalities seem to emerge from the neuroscience findings will continue in Part Three. Under this model. SUMMARY With reasonable confidence. akin to PFC asymmetry. to my knowledge. and so on.For example. a shy bookish introvert. other righties. this is an open question. elegant matador to be described as just that. consistent. the left amygdala mediates aware fear. this chapter concludes that the Glascher/Adolphs model of amygdala asymmetry is likely to be sound. Still. this section should have given you a flavor of the Enneagrambrain analysis to come. relative dominance of her left PFC and left amygdala. Presently. that’s all this chapter will say on personality. This sort of trait asymmetry seems necessary for personalities to emerge. With respect to amygdala asymmetry. this matador would. But if she was all that. her personality would defy description. a pessimistic self defeatist. So trait asymmetry is required for personality. has yet studied whether individuals exhibit persistent patterns of left versus right dominance in the amygdala. 221 . Well. That study looked only at state asymmetry. No one. seem also to be a thick headed bull. For example. and still others “bothies”? The most we can say at present is: “probably”. are some people lefties. unaware fear. Still. not just state asymmetry. it would require persistent. during other times. the right. an open question in the field is whether amygdala asymmetry is a trait-like feature. these personalities could exist only if the Glascher/Adolphs model (assuming it is correct) applies to trait amygdala asymmetry. for the confident. Otherwise.
This is in contrast with the PFC which is an “always-on” brain region (at least during waking hours). and h u m a n p e r s o n a l i t y e m e r g e . survival processes.Beyond the Glascher/Adolphs model. 222 . this chapter explained that the normal amygdala exhibits an “on-off” pattern of activation. Finally. This on-off nature of the amygdala impacts plasticity (can we train “off”?) and health (too much “on” spells trouble). It is within this rich interaction that fear. this chapter delved into the interaction between PFC and amygdala.
Part Three: Connecting the Dots .
Chapter 7: Other Attempts TBD: This chapter will go through prior attempts in history to link human personality to bodily function. and what we have today that allows us to finally break through. 225 . explaining that none has proven successful.
Chapter 8: The Full Hypothesis TBD: This chapter will weave together the conclusions of Part One and Part Two. 226 . and introduce the core hypothesis of this book.
Chapter 9: Suggested Research TBD: This chapter will offer suggestions on experimental design for testing the hypothesis. 227 .
medicine. inclusion musings about what might happen to religion. 228 .Epilogue: Implications TBD: This chapter will touch on implications of validation of the hypothesis. and science.
H." in Richard J. (1993) The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q & Christian Origins. Dawkins. Mack. Fukuda. Kawashima. J. New York: Fawcett Crest. Tessitore A.M. Serotonin transporter genetic variation and the response of the human amygdala. • • • • • • • • • • • 229 . 1999.Bibliography In no particular order.. Davidson. K. Morris. Brain. Richard (1976) The Selfish Gene. 96:1680-85. New York: Vintage Books. and R. 51:68-80." Biol Psychiatry.: MIT Press. New York: McGraw-Hill. Joseph (1996) The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life. Natl. A. and Daniel J. Acad. of the technical sources this book has relied upon: • Hariri AR. Carl Gustav (1961) Memories. 2002 Jul 19. Kolachana B. and Affective Style. Science. eds. Hjelle. Dolan (1999) "A subcortical pathway to the right amygdala mediating 'unseen' fear. Reflections. LeDoux. Sci. Ziegler (1992) Personality Theories: Basic Assumptions. New York: Viking Penguin. Ohman.. The human amygdala plays an important role in gaze monitoring. A. Egan MF. R.... and Nakamura.297(5580):400-3 (2002) Davidson...S. the following papers and books are most. if not all. Meyer. Weinberger DR. A PET study. Richard J.. Burton L.J. Sugiura . T. K. 361-387. and perhaps a bit more than. Brain Asymmetry. New York: Oxford University Press. Mattay VS. K.. USA. and Ray H. Joseph (2002) Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are. S. Fera F. Nakamura. Ito. Rosenman (1974) Type A Behavior and Your Heart. Richard J. Kato. Kojima. Dreams. 1989. Friedman. and Applications. Emotion. New York: Touchstone. Research." Proc. (1995) "Cerebral Asymmetry. Jung. Davidson and Kenneth Hugdahl. (2002) "Anxiety and Affective Style: Role of Prefrontal Cortex and Amygdala. Larry A. 122: 779-783 LeDoux... San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers. Cambridge. Mass. Hatano. Goldman D.
B. A... "The central role of the • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 230 . "State and Trait Nature of Frontal EEG: Asymmetry in Emotion".J.. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Psychophysiology.R. Acar.• Palmer. (2). 67. Mesulam. Elizabeth A. Robert (1994) The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way we Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology. R.: Consulting Psychologists Press. D... Coan. J. New York: Vintage Books. H. and Russ Hudson (1996) Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery.. J.B. Brain 123. P. J. Calvo.M. San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers. Petit.H." Nature Neuroscience. Saunders. Daffner. Wright. "Characterization of the decisionmaking deficit of patients with ventromedial prefrontal cortex lesions". Holcomb. Decision Making and the Orbitofrontal Cortex". B.. L. "Frontal EEG asymmetry and the behavioral activation and inhibition systems". 685-693 (2001) Bechara. Damasio. (2001) "Activation of the left amygdala to a cognitive representation of fear. A. Vol. "The role of prefrontal cortex in working memory: examining the contents of consciousness". Courtney.. V. Richard (1993) The Life of Isaac Newton. Chapter 5 Allen.. Phil..R. Cerebral Cortex 10:295-307 (2000) Bechara. H. Riso. "Behavioral Inhibition. Soc. & White. J. Phelps. and Affective Responses to Impending Reward and Punishment: The BIS/BAS Scales". Coan. Frances Wright (1991) Katharine and Isabel: Mother's Light. Kennedy. L. B 353. T.F. Helen (1995) The Enneagram in Love & Work: Understanding Your Intimate & Business Relationships.. Ungerleider. 4:4:437-41. Damasio.J. Damasio.M. Don Richard. Haxby. J...A.. E. Allen.V. Palo Alto. 40 (2003). Lond. Allen. 106-114. Scinto.. Daughter's Journey.G. Harmon-Jones. J... M.. The Asymmetrical Brain. "Manipulation of frontal EEG asymmetry through biofeedback alters self-reported emotional responses and facial EMG". S. Psychophysiology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Trans. Cavender.. 38.. Faust. "Emotion...J. A. et al. No/2 319333 (1994). D. 2189-2202 (2000) Carver. J.B. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. R.. Cal. 1819-1828 (1998). L.A. Tranel. K..... C.M. MIT Press (2003). Westfall.. Behavioral Activation. A. Chabrerie.
M.F.psych.. & Kalin.. 99 No. 5 (1998) Gray. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 11911194 (2002) Field. Kabat-Zinn.J.psych.pdf" |Anxiety and affective style: Role of prefrontal cortex and amygdala. " N K "http://psyphz.. I.... t/lab%20articles/2000/Emotion. J.wisc.. R. J .. 1196-1214 (2000b) Davidson. R.. Muller. Harrington..PDF" \t "_blank" |The functional neuroanatomy of emotion and affective style.. . 6. context and regulation: Perspectives from affective neuroscience.S.J...J. N. 890-906 (2000) Davidson.. Urbanowski.pdf" \t "_blank" |Toward a biology of personality and emotion".Plasticity.porefrontal cortex in directing attention to novel events".. D. "Affective neuroscience and psychophysiology: Toward a synthesis". 4115-4120 (2002) • • • • • • • • • • 231 . "Emotion. "Individual Difference in Prefrontal Activation Predict Natural Killer Cell Activity at Rest and in Response to Challenge". Brain. 3. Coes. plasticity. Braver. J. 191-207 (2001) D a v i d s o n . Jackson. Pediatrics Vol. 51.".html" \t "_blank" |Affective style.edu/front/lab%20articles/2002/anxiety. 298. Behavior. R.edu/front/lab%20articles/1999/Functional%2 0neuroanatomy%20of%20emotion%20and%20affective%20style. "Integration of emotion and cognition in the lateral prefrontal cortex". Schumacher. R . 68-80 (2002) Davidson. and Behavior"..J.. S. and Immunity 13. T. Psychosomatic Medicine 65:564-570 (2003) Davidson. Raichle. C. 55. PNAS Vol. psychopathology and resiliance: Brain mechanisms and plasticity.".. K. R. M. R. Psychological Bulletin. 102 No. Science Vol. Trends in Cognitive Science. Sheridan.R.psych.wisc.htm" |Emotion. HYPERLINK "http://psyphz. Bonus. T. American Psychologist.H. F. Santorelli. 935. 93-108 (1999) D a v i d s o n . 40:655-665 (2003) Dolan. J . J.C. "Early Interventions for Infants of Depressed Mothers". Brain 123. "Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation". Rosenkranz. A.. R.J. 11-21 (1999) Davidson. B. Dolski. J.wisc.E. D.edu/front/lab%20articles/2000/Affective_styl e.F. R. http://psyphz. 126. J.C. 927939 (2000) • Davidson.J." Biological Psychiatry.. Cognition. Psychophysiology. "_biology.. R . Donzella..
M. 95-102 (2001) Opitz. J.. 506-511 (2000) O'Doherty..J. 5 1310-1316 (1998) Harmon-Jones.. Courtney..L.Y. D. Harmon-Jones. L.B.E. B. E. C. Bohlig A. S.. and Andrews.T. 82. A. 97 No. R. A. E. Cerebral Cortex 9:379-391 (1999) Pfeifer. M. & Allen. 57. Rolls.. J. Spiegel. 286-292 (1998) Kosslyn. Bohlig. Kringelbach.... Shelton. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 106.. "Anger. Sigelman.B. Mecklinger. Davidson. The analysis of individuals in groups". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. and Rose.. C.. Abramson. K.D.H. "Prefrontal cortex and episodic memory retrieval mode". 159-163 (1997). R. 74 No. O. and Frontal Cortical Activity: The Effect of Coping Potential on Anger-Induced Left Frontal Activity". C. E.D.. Davidson. J.. Ghaffar. E. In Press at Cognition and Emotion (2000)... & Rickman. "Bridging psychology and biology. H..Psychol. Hogan. 1. No. B. PNAS Vol. J. Learning & Memory 7:85-96 (2000) Opitz. "Functional Asymmetry of Human Prefrontal Cortex: Encoding and Retrieval of Verbally and Nonverbally Coded Information". "Anger and Frontal Brain Activity: EEG Asymmetry Consistent With Approach Motivation Despite Negative Affective Valence". Allen. 610-618 Henriques. J.. "Asymmetric Frontal Brain Activity. "The Functional Neuroanatomy of Novelty Processing: Integrating ERP and fMRI Results". Friederici. S. Coping... M. R. 711-724 (2000) Kalin. Mecklinger. Davidson.. E. Sigelman. A. S. Proneness to hypomania/mania or depression and asymmetrical frontal cortical responses to an anger-evoking event. M. J. Harmon-Jones. J. Y. R.. E.• Harmon-Jones. 341-351 (2002) LePage.. A. von Cramon. Cortisol.. N.. Decreased responsiveness to reward in depression".M. Friederici. 2. Cacioppo. D.. Davidson. L... Behavioral Neuroscience Vol. Tulving. Nyberg. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Vol.. Larson.. Lovallo. E. T. R....J. Goldsmith. M. J. R. H. "Behavioral Activiation Sensitivity and resting Frontal EEG Asymmetry Covariation of Putative Indicators Related to Risk for Mood Disorders". (2002).. M. Hugdahl.. J... "Dissociation of the Neural Systems for Working Memory • • • • • • • • • • • 232 .. Hornak. Hamon-Jones. J.. & Harmon-Jones. Pekar. 112. J.J.. W. Cognotion and Emotion 14(5). Am. C... and Behavior Associated With Fearful Temperament in Rhesus Monkeys". A.B....J.
and Behavioral Neuroscience.. M. 2(4). (2002). 1(2): 161-171 (2001) • • • Sobotka. 4 1391 4 6 ( 2 0 0 3 ) 233 . S. A.N.D. Nature Reviews/Neurosceince Vol. Scars that Won't Heal: The Neurobiology of Child Abuse. S. Cognitive. Grafman. Scientific American. 50-67 Wood. . Davidson. J. 68-75 Teicher.. R. Cerebrum: The Dana Forum on brain science. 286(3). (2000).Manitenance of Verbal and Nonspatial Visual Information". J. Affective.. J. J. Wounds that time won't heal: The neurobiology of child abuse. & Senulis. "Human Prefrontal Cortex: Processing and Representational Perspectives"..
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.