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Features : Editorial Last Updated: Nov 20, 2013 - 9:51:15 AM


Are you a mover, perceiver, stimulator or adaptor?
By Steve Ferber
Nov 20, 2013 - 9:50:28 AM

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What’s your dominant thinking mode?

A new book has us thinking again, about how we process the world, how we make plans and how diligent we are in executing those plans (whether it’s planning a meal, or building a business). Authors Stephen Kosslyn (Harvard neuroscientist) and G. Wayne Miller (author, filmmaker) are urging us to think about how we think (they call it the theory of cognitive modes), and the implicit hope is that the more we understand our own thinking pattern, the more capable we’ll be in teaming with others, and achieving our goals.  
Kosslyn and Miller crafted their own personality test to help us learn what type of thinker we are (I took the test – more about that in a moment), and they hope that their body of work advances a sea of personality tests, the most famous of which is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator  – which measures individual preferences on four continuums: extraversion-introversion, sensing-intuition, thinking-feeling, judging-perceiving.   
Kosslyn and Miller begin by thoroughly debunking the long-held notion that we’re either left-brained or right-brained. The authors declare: “The popular left/right story has no solid basis in science. The brain doesn’t work one part at a time, but rather as a single interactive system, with all parts contributing in concert, as neuroscientists have long known. The left brain/right brain story may be the mother of all urban legends: It sounds good and seems to make sense—but just isn’t true.”
In an article written for the Wall Street Journal last month, the authors explain that their new theory “has emerged from the field of neuropsychology, the study of higher cognitive functioning – thoughts, wishes, hopes, desires and all other aspects of mental life.” They first explain the anatomical aspects of brain function (top-brain vs. bottom-brain), and then detail four cognitive modes or thinking styles – mover, perceiver, stimulator and adaptor.

Thinking Mode #1: Mover
Explain the authors: “According to the theory, people who habitually rely on Mover mode are most comfortable in positions that allow them to plan, act and see the consequences of their actions. They are well suited to being leaders.”  The authors name names – hypothesizing that Oprah Winfrey, the Wright Brothers, FDR and NASCAR’s Bill France Jr. are all “movers.”

Thinking Mode #2: Perceiver
Here, the authors picture the Dali Lama and Emily Dickinson, based on the fact that people in perceiver mode “try to make sense in depth of what they perceive; they interpret their experiences, place them in context and try to understand the implications.” But, the authors maintain: “. . . they don’t make and execute grand plans. By definition, such people – including naturalists, pastors, novelists – typically lead lives away from the limelight. Those who rely on this mode often play a crucial role in a group; they can make sense of events and provide a bigger picture. In business, they are key members of teams, providing perspective and wisdom but not always getting credit.”

Thinking Mode #3: Stimulator
Stimulators, report Kosslyn and Miller, “. . . often create and execute complex and detailed plans . . . but fail to register consistently and accurately the consequences of acting on those plans. They don’t update or correct their plans when events unfold in unexpected ways. Such people may be creative and original, able to think outside the box even when everybody around them has a fixed way of approaching an issue. At the same time, they may not always note when enough is enough. Their actions can be disruptive, and they may not adjust their behavior appropriately.” The authors name Tiger Woods and social activist Abbie Hoffman as two examples of “Stimulator” mode.  

Thinking Mode #4: Adaptor
Adaptors, explain Kosslyn and Miller, are “people who . . . are not caught up in initiating plans, nor are they fully focused on classifying and interpreting what they experience. Instead, they become absorbed by local events and the immediate requirements of the situation. They are responsive and action-oriented and tend to ‘go with the flow’. Others see them as free-spirited and fun to be with. Because they can easily embrace the plans of others, those who typically operate in Adaptor mode can be valuable team members. In business, they often form the backbone of an organization, carrying out essential operations.”  Who are we talking about? The authors speculate that Alex Rodriguez and Elizabeth Taylor are adaptors.  
And how did my test turn out? After 20 questions, they said that my thinking style is “stimulator.” My report said simply: “You think in situational Stimulator Mode: you tend to make and act on plans, but do not always register consequences and adjust plans accordingly, but are particularly context dependent.”  Perhaps.  But these four areas now help me understand why my wife and I get along so well – we have totally different thinking styles.  
Steve Ferber is author of “21 Rules to     Live By.”
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