Behavioral psychologist Chantal van der Liss examines our behavior in the workplace: Who or what determines our daily decisions? Today: the primitive brain.
Nap Do you ever eat a lot of snacks and do very little exercise? It is often said that it is a sign that you listen a lot to the reptilian brain. It is said that the depths of our brains are an ancient core that we share with animals that are not yet as evolved as we are. This heart of the brain continually tempts us to succumb to primal impulses: it seeks rest and comfort and prefers no change.
This explains everything, of course. If I don’t want to run or would rather be on social media than work, that’s wrong with my head. Well, nothing to do. Sadly, this theory is wrong, even though it appears in many first-year psychology textbooks.
We humans are not at the top in terms of evolution, but we have taken a different path somewhere in evolution
We owe this misconception to physician and neuroscientist Paul McClain, who suggested in the 1960s that humans actually have three brains stacked on top of each other. Below is the ancient lizard’s brain, or brainstem, which is responsible for movement and breathing. In the middle is the limbic system that characterizes feelings and the neocortex as the upper sensory layer, through which you can think. It would be unique to us as humans to keep these two other subordinate minds in check.
Biologically speaking, it doesn’t make sense. Many animals and even insects have some type of limbic system and neocortex, but they developed those parts of the brain in a different way. We humans are not at the top in terms of evolution, but we have taken a different path somewhere in evolution. Just because animals think and act differently than we do, doesn’t mean they are dumber or more primitive. It’s like having a plumber take a carpenter’s exam and find it primitive when he fails.
In addition, there are now more and more studies that show that we are not at all burdened with pre-programmed emotions from a primitive brain. In the past, you didn’t have to worry about getting fired or maybe saying something stupid on social media. We all taught ourselves that. So your creepy brain didn’t just stuff the sausage roll, you did it yourself. Unfortunately.
Would you like to learn more about psychology and work? Read Chantal’s books Why Perfectionists Are Rarely Happy, 13 Tips Against Perfection (2021) and Our Mistaken At Work (2018).
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