There Are 11 Biological Preferences. Which is Yours?
What is the importance of your, and your child’s, biological preferences?
Each of us has a particular Biological Preference for learning. This understanding allows us to create more natural and engaging learning environments. The mistake that most educational, training, and motivational programs make is in trying to get people transform without understanding their primary mode of learning.
With a few exceptions, the ability to move separates the plant and animal kingdoms. As the ability to control physical movement has progressed up the evolutionary ladder from single celled bacteria to fish to reptiles to mammals to humans, the ability to improve survival options by physically moving away from pain and toward pleasure has become more and more sophisticated. For 3.5 billion years—until about 50,000 years ago, when new brain areas brought with them the capacity for complex language— all learning by our ancestors was done on the fly.
Before the advent of speech and writing, if you weren’t moving, you weren’t learning. In prehistoric times, individuals with a kinesthetic preference are likely to have supported the group’s survival by being the first up in the morning, taking off in search of the day’s prey. To be effective at their job, they had to have not only physical prowess but also the ability to continually shift their focus, picking up clues to help them escape predators and find meaty prey.
For our ancestors who operated in a dangerous world, fixating on any one stimulus for too long could lead to death.
Today, experts see a connection between many individuals labelled ADHD and the kinesthetic Biological Preference. Those with a kinesthetic preference like to learn while moving because physical action not only stimulates brain areas that support learning but also prompts the release of neurochemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine necessary for learning. Kinesthetic learners experience discomfort and inefficiency when they try to learn without movement, for two main reasons:
First, when kinesthetic types are made to sit still for hours at a time, the motor cortex, which occupies a wide strip behind the
prefrontal lobe and runs from temple to temple, doesn’t receive enough neural energy to fire up the substantial number of neurons and neural connections that act as hooks for new information. When any networks that hold personal meaning remain unstimulated for long periods, boredom and discomfort set
Second, kinesthetic types have been found to have low levels of dopamine and norepinephrine when not moving—these are focus and attention neurotransmitters. Low levels of these neurotransmitters prompt kinesthetic types to continually want to move and/or shift their focus of attention to increase dopamine and norepinephrine. Although this may be a great survival advantage, in the real world, it causes discomfort and learning difficulties when they need to sit still and focus on a single stimulus such as a teacher in the classroom. Forcing someone with a kinesthetic preference to sit for long periods is like asking an auditory-dominated person to listen to fingernails scratching on a blackboard—very painful.
No matter what your primary intelligence, any time you move, your levels of dopamine and norepinephrine increase. This is why it’s so much easier to focus on and remember things you did while you were moving through the real world. But getting up and moving is frowned upon in our traditional learning systems.
Therefore, to keep kinesthetic types in their seats, we often drug them by prescribing stimulants like Ritalin, which artificially increases dopamine and norepinephrine. Although stimulant drugs can be of great benefit to individuals properly diagnosed with attention deficit
disorder, we may be causing great harm by prescribing stimulants at a very young age to the 15 percent of the population whose primary Biological Preference is kinesthetic.
While there needs to be more research in this area, many experts believe these drugs can set up children for a lifetime of addiction. Examples of those with a kinesthetic preference are Tom Brady, LeBron James, Tiger Woods, and Serena Williams. They’ve all used their kinesthetic dominance to learn not only how to play but also later how to leverage their preference—and what they’ve learned employing it in the sports world—in business.
Tactile feedback (perceived by touch) from our contact with the environment is how everything from a slug to a human knows how to regulate itself. Tactile feedback is recorded in our somatosensory cortex, located just behind the motor strip in the brain (soma is the Greek word for the body). The tactile strip works in tandem with the hypothalamus in the limbic system, which regulates the neurotransmitter and hormonal responses to all stimuli you receive through your skin.
I need to feel it to be it!
Those with a tactile preference like to learn by having their bodies immersed in the learning process, which stimulates both the somatosensory strip and the hypothalamus. Having a primary tactile preference was valuable to the tribe during ancient times for several reasons. Their fine sensory abilities made them more skilled in manipulating common materials available to the tribe. It is believed these individuals could determine through touch and feel which soils would best grow crops, which clay would be best for making pots, and which stones would be best for shaping arrowheads. It was probably the tactile types who figured out which stones could make a spark to start a fire.
Many believe those with a tactile preference were also the first weather forecasters. Their preference would have made them extra sensitive to changes in humidity, temperature, and air pressure, which indicated changing weather conditions. They could then alert the tribe to early winter or fast-approaching weather change so that the community could take appropriate action.
Those with a tactile preference learn best by having some sort of contact with what they’re trying to learn, which makes strictly linguistic instruction very difficult for them. Primarily tactile learners are strongly affected by room temperature, how the furniture touches their skin, and their proximity to other students. Authors Gordon Dryden and Jeannette Vos point out that “tactile learners are the main candidates for failure in traditional school classrooms.”6 Learning style researcher Michael Grinder reports that this group, which is made up of only 7 percent or so of the population, is responsible for a disproportionate number of school dropouts.
One of the greatest minds of the millennium, Charles Darwin, appears to have been tactile dominant. He relied on his constant physical contact with plants, insects, and animals to allow him to work out what many consider the most important idea ever discovered: the theory of evolution by natural selection. Darwin needed to touch and feel so much that he said he found lectures “intolerably dull,” and after seven years of effort at classical teaching, he concluded that his mind was “simply a blank.”
Geneticists Theodosius Dobzhansky, whose work on variation helped put the first coffin nail in the eugenics movement, and Barbara McClintock, who discovered jumping genes, are two scientists who, like Darwin, learned best in this way. They both strongly believed that genetics could not be learned in a classroom, and they encouraged their students to get hands-on learning in the wild. Tactile preference vocations include massage therapy, sculpture, surgery, carpentry, gardening, and farming.
Taste and smell sensations from our noses and mouths alert us about what to approach and what to avoid. Taste and smell helped our ancestors decide which food and water were palatable and which was poisonous. Every living entity—be it predator or prey, nutritious or poisonous—carries a distinctive odor. Even the sexes give off different smells, as we’ve learned from pheromone research.
Modern bears can smell prey twenty miles away, and in primitive times, our command of taste/smell was paramount to the continuation of life; the species that weren’t skilled in this modality no longer exist. Today, with bottled water and packaged foods, taste/smell preference plays a lesser role in human survival, and it’s estimated that only about 5 percent of people possess this as a primary preference.
Although the neural systems for taste and smell are distinct from one another, we’ve combined them for two reasons. First, the sensations of flavors and aromas are so closely intertwined that it’s impossible to deal with one without dealing with the other. Second, taste and smell use the same processing mechanisms. The process begins when molecules detach from substances that float into our noses or are put into our mouths. These molecules must then dissolve in watery mucus to bind to and stimulate special receptor cells, which transmit messages to the brain centers where we perceive odors and tastes.
Where do odor signals go after they activate the sensory neurons in the nose? They’re sent to the olfactory bulbs, one on either side of the bottom surface of the brain. In our ancestors, these bulbs were huge, but in modern humans, they’ve shrunk to small, poorly defined nubbins. From the olfactory bulbs, smell signals go by way of the olfactory tract to the limbic system, which houses raw emotions. In the early 20th century, neuroscientists felt that smell was so important to emotional processing that they called the limbic system the rhinencephalon, which means “smell brain.”
Mmmmm. Love it!
Can’t you smell it? It’s wonderful!
The olfactory tract also sends signals to the sensory relay station of the brain called the thalamus, which passes the information to the associative memory areas of the cortex. A small number of people with smell dominance have a hard time learning whenever a distracting smell is present. Some of these people are so sensitive that learning can’t take place at all in the presence of just a few of the molecules responsible for an obnoxious smell. At seminars, I’ve heard people complain that the smell of a person’s perfume next to them was so strong that they couldn’t learn. Some people hypothesize that the field of aromatherapy has the greatest effect on those with a smell dominance.
The taste buds on your tongue send signals to the brain stem, limbic system, and thalamus, which in turn pass this information on to the gustatory area of the somatosensory cortex. Research shows that taste- dominant individuals have an overabundance of taste receptor sites on their tongues, which prompt more neural activity in the gustatory brain centers. Dominant tasters do not have to eat while processing information, but many smack their lips and tongue in imitation of tasting while learning. Often, those with a taste/smell preference suck on things, such as pens and pencils, while trying to sort out a problem. Chewing gum often helps them to process information.
Those with primary taste/smell preference often gravitate toward jobs that include being chefs, sommeliers, perfumers, and aromatherapists. Julia Child and Robert Mondavi are examples of famous individuals in the fields of cooking and wine because of their taste/smell preference.
Vision became a dominant survival characteristic 550 million years ago during the Cambrian explosion, a period in which nature tried out billions of new survival characteristics, of which only a few million survive today. Vision was a tremendous survival advantage for all organisms. As soon as organisms could shift away from relying solely on smell, taste, and touch to avoid pain and approach pleasure, their survival chances were enhanced dramatically. Now organisms could see what they wanted to have sex with, eat, or flee from. Some researchers estimate that up to 30 percent of us rely primarily on this preference to survive and thrive in our world.
Visual Preference: I need to see it!
The value of vision to the human species is represented by the neural connections in the brain allocated to this modality—one expert has estimated that as much as 50 percent of neural tissue is involved with vision. Vision begins when light and color-sensitive photoreceptor cells in the retinas pick up signals. This information leaves the eye by way of the optic nerve, which sends information to a section of the thalamus called the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN); from here, axon connections fan out to the visual cortex, which takes up the whole back of the brain, where connections spread out to the rest of the brain.
To someone with a visual preference, rich visual sensory input is necessary to fire up a large number of neural connections that prompt the NMDA receptors and CREB molecules to action. Sitting in a small classroom for hours with only a teacher to look at is the fastest way to put a visual dominant to sleep or drive him or her out of the traditional learning system altogether. These learners encode knowledge best in real-world settings with an abundance of visual stimuli or with videos, pictures, and infographics. The most obvious jobs that attract those with primary visual intelligence include photography, painting, fashion, film, video, and structural and interior design.
Vincent Van Gogh. Who cut off his own ear, had a visual preference.
It must be noted that visual preference can reside in color, line, angle, or some combination of these. In the field of art, this gives our world a rich pool of wonderful painters with radically different styles, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Monet, Frida Kahlo, and Andy Warhol; their distinct works are thought to be driven by different genetic variations.
Many in fields far from what could be considered art have also relied on visual intelligence to accomplish great things. Mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, a leader in the field of fractal geometry, said that to understand complex concepts, he needed to think in images. Physicist Richard Feynman finds that he can really understand an equation only if he looks at the illustration that goes with it. And geneticists Watson and Crick could not solve the puzzle of the structure of DNA with chemical equations alone; it was only after they drew and constructed visual models that the pieces fell into place.
As organisms marched up the evolutionary ladder, the physical mechanisms that could pick up vibrations and translate them into survival information became more and more sophisticated. Like smell, the auditory modality was important because it allowed our ancestors to locate pleasure and danger in their environment without having to expose themselves to potential prey, predators, or sexual partners. This allowed them precious time to stay out of the line of sight while they developed effective strategies of action and decided whether they should attack, run, or get randy.
I gotta hear it to get it!
In modern humans, the auditory modality is controlled by a very complex process. Essentially, hearing starts when sound waves vibrate the eardrum at the end of the ear canal. These vibrations are sent to the middle ear, where three small bones refine the initial vibrations and send them on to the inner ear structure called the cochlea. Thousands of tiny hairs in the cochlea have receptor cells, which process auditory information in the range of fifty to 20,000Hz and pass this information to the switchboard of the brain, the thalamus; the thalamus, in turn, sends this information on to the auditory cortex located in the temporal lobe, where the sound is identified.
The auditory preference is closely connected to the linguistic and musical modalities because they share many of the same structures that translate vibrations into sounds. Individuals with an auditory preference prefer to hear information, often with as little other sensory distraction or background noise as possible. The main difference between auditory and linguistic dominance is that auditory-dominant types would rather listen to information than read it. Many beginning readers with primary auditory intelligence prefer to read out loud to themselves and often continue to move their lips while reading as adults.
It shocks many people to realize that reading silently is a new process for the brain. It is reported that people initially had to say the words they were reading out loud to comprehend them. History tells us that it was only 600 years ago that St. Augustine noticed that St. Ambrose was doing something that had been previously unheard of—reading without a sound!
Auditory-dominant types can often learn more from listening to audiobooks than from reading. When these folks are wrestling with a problem, they often talk out loud to themselves to stimulate the parts of the brain that allow them to process information more effectively.
Those with an auditory preference are good listeners and often take jobs as social workers or psychologists or in radio stations or human resource departments. I have an auditory-dominant business partner who gets almost no information from written reports. Instead, to process information, he has to hear what employees have to say about a project to grasp significant points. What business is he in? Radio, of course.
The more efficiently our brains map our world, the more effective our survival actions can be. Just getting sensory feedback from the environment isn’t enough. Sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste must be put together, so we have accurate 3D maps of our world from which to take appropriate action. Spatial intelligence controls the map-building function of the brain.
Spatial intelligence is located in the parietal lobes just behind the somatosensory cortex and is supported by “place cells” located in the hippocampus in the limbic system. Any time you try to find your glasses at home or look for your car in the parking lot, you use the map-building capabilities of your spatial/3D intelligence.
Many architects have Spatial Preferences.
People in professions that require good mapping capabilities, such as taxi drivers, have increased activity in the brain areas where spatial intelligence is housed. Howard Gardner found that individuals whose survival depended upon finding their way in vast territories, such as the desert, Arctic, and oceans, have highly developed forms of spatial/3D intelligence.
He notes that in Solomon Islanders, the parts of the brain that deal with spatial information were highly developed.
Math concepts such as geometry, which need to be understood on spatial/3D planes, stimulate these brain areas. Individuals with a primary spatial/3D preference love bringing pieces together to make a whole picture. These people include architects, engineers, explorers, typographers, computer programmers, and print and video editors.
At this time in human history, those with a spatial/3D intelligence are being handsomely rewarded. In a technical world, the mind that can see how to fit the world on a computer chip or manipulate the web is highly valued. However, our traditional educational system has proved inefficient at satiating these types that many of those who have been most influential in developing our information age. For example, Bill Gates and Paul Allen of Microsoft, Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak of Apple, Evan Williams, founder of Twitter, and Michael Dell of Dell Computers, all dropped out of high school or college to stimulate their spatial/3D preference on their own.
Music could be called humankind’s first language because until we developed complex speech and language around 50,000 years ago, rhythmic vibrations were our primary method of communication— from the chirping of crickets to the grunts and whines of gorillas to the more complex combinations of pitch and tone that songbirds and whales employ to communicate. Over the last decade, a substantial amount of research has gone into locating the circuits that hold our musical intelligence.
Evidence suggests that musical processing overlaps with other brain areas and that our musical networks are more spread out within the brain than any other modality is. Musical vibrations picked up by the ears are sent to the auditory cortex in the left temporal lobe for processing. One area located here, called the planum temporale, is called on to recognize not only pitch but also words. Damage to these temporal areas causes amusia, a condition that inhibits people from recognizing melodies. Brain scans also reveal that these temporal areas connect to networks in the right temporal lobe that can differentiate changes in note duration and separation. Lawrence Parsons and his colleagues at the University of Texas in San Antonio found that an area in the right temporal lobe that interprets written musical notes and passages corresponds to an area in the left temporal lobe known to interpret written sentences.
Music moves the musical preferences!
Can you dig this?
It’s also been found that the parietal lobe, which houses our spatial/3D modality, is involved in producing music. A decade ago, researchers at Dartmouth College discovered that an area of the prefrontal cortex called the rostro medial, which processes emotional feedback, is also necessary for processing the harmonic relationships of music. Amazingly, research shows that even the visual cortex gets into the act. Hervé Platel, Jean-Claude Baron, and their colleagues at the University of Caen used positron emission tomography (PET) to monitor the effects of changes in pitch. Much to their surprise, they found distinct areas in the visual cortex that lit up.
But music goes even deeper than the cortex.
The limbic system, where our raw base instincts and raw emotions are processed, is activated when we hear music. Neuroscientists Anne J. Blood and Robert J. Zatorre found that this is one reason we feel good when we hear our favorite music. Their research uncovered that the same limbic pleasure centers that are activated when we engage in sex, eating, and taking mind-altering drugs are also activated when we listen to music—so, yes, it looks like we can become addicted to our favorite tunes! Dr. Mark Jude Tramo, the neurobiologist at Harvard University Medical School, says music is so ingrained in our brain structures that it “is biologically part of human life.”
Plato once said that for education, “musical training is a more potent instrument than any other.” It appears that he was right. One study at the University of California has shown that piano lessons given to preschoolers helped them score 34 percent higher on math and science tests than a control group who did not take piano lessons. Evidence shows that high school students with a music background do better than their peers on college entrance exams.
Other studies have shown that both SAT and IQ scores can be temporarily driven up by exposing students to music before the tests (the lowering of stress hormones may be the reason for this). Research indicates that many students learn better with music playing in the background as they study, even if adults consider that same music distracting. One researcher found that, for many students, the hard rock and rap that their parents hate is just what they need to integrate information.
My elder son has such a strong musical dominance that, in third grade, he couldn’t process new information in the classroom without humming or singing. This kept his young butt in trouble with his linguistic-dominant teacher, who couldn’t fathom why he needed to hum all the time. We eventually had to move him to a school that had a greater tolerance for different Biological Preferences.
It appears that music supports learning because its vibrations activate so many brain areas. The more neurons that are activated during the learning process, the greater the chance that the magnesium plug will be blown out of the NMDA receptor so that memory can form. Research shows that electroencephalogram (EEG) waveforms in the left and right hemispheres synchronize when we listen to certain types of music. Scientists believe this synchronicity may help the flow of information from one side of the brain to the other.
No discussion of the musical modality could be complete without reference to spirituality and health. Before the Industrial Revolution, music was seen as the way to align one’s body with the laws of nature and one’s soul with the laws of God. Music was the path to salvation. One of the greatest musicians of our times, Beethoven, said that music is the soul in which the spirit lives. The Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, and Hindu chants that have soothed souls for centuries offer examples of humans using music to connect themselves to the higher realms. Music is now even being used to heal. Several studies reveal that playing specific music to premature babies and those with diseases speeds healing. Musicians—from composers such as Mozart and Gershwin to monks who perform Gregorian chants to Beyoncé and Jay Z—have a musical preference.
Language is the new kid on the evolutionary block. Our linguistic intelligence developed quite suddenly in evolutionary terms, about 100,000 to 50,000 years ago, and coincided with the expansion of the frontal brain areas and the elongation of the palate. Before these changes, humans had neither the mental capacity for complex language nor the physical apparatus by which to form words. Our primate cousins who lack these evolutionary adaptations have a mind and mouth that can produce enough sounds, but they lack the brain wiring to produce speech.
Many comedians have a linguistic preference.
Language allowed humans a new, fast, efficient, and safe way to learn survival information without having to personally experience a dangerous world. No longer did an individual have to encounter a snarling saber- toothed cat to learn that the animal could be dangerous. Sitting by the fire in their cozy cave, one tribal member could tell the whole tribe to stay clear of these nasty cats. This ability to share complex surviving and thriving information is one of the humans’ greatest advantages over our animal and ape cousins.
Humans are genetically wired for language. We come out of the womb with the ability to utter every sound of every language on the face of the Earth. Noam Chomsky, linguistics researcher, and professor at MIT, maintains that we’re also born with a genetic blueprint for grammatical rules, which allow for an incredibly complex speech by the processing networks in our Broca’s area, which is located at the rear of the frontal lobe.
Lanuage comprehension resides in our Wernicke’s area in the temporal lobe behind the ear. These two language areas are connected by a tract of fibers called the arcuate fasciculus. All these structures share many connections with the auditory cortex. Research has shown that, within the language centers, the location for different word concepts is somewhat separate. That’s why trauma or disease in specific locations can wipe out the ability to produce or comprehend verbs, nouns, or whole categories of things such as vegetables, tools, or animals.
These linguistic brain areas share many of the same circuits responsible for linear sequential thought. These are the dominant circuits of Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato—designers of the Greek logical method of learning, now used throughout the educational world. Professions that attract those with a primary linguistic dominance include teachers, professors, authors, editors, copywriters, seminar presenters, and many word-based comedians.
Socrates: Linguistic Preference.
Evidence suggests that the origins of our mathematical modality are genetic. Many of those who study the genesis of our math abilities embrace a view similar to Noam Chomsky’s theory on grammar, maintaining that math is hard-wired into the genetic plan. Dr. Brian Butterworth, author of What Counts: How Every Brain Is Hardwired for Math and The Mathematical Brain, points out that newborns have been shown to have concepts of numbers and arithmetic because all humans are “born with a start-up kit for numbers.” One of the things that make humans so unique from animals is that our ability to process mathematical concepts is so advanced.
Yes…and I’m the preeminent math genius in the world!
Research at MIT and other institutions has demonstrated that we have two sets of neural networks that deal with math. The oldest network, in evolutionary terms, is located in the parietal lobes, the same structure where most of our spatial/3D abilities are housed. Circuits here supply us with the ability to make estimates about which groups of things are larger.
and which are smaller. These structures also provide the foundation for the understanding of general math concepts like geometry. Newer evolutionary networks, which handle linear, exact calculations and rote memorization such as multiplication tables, share many of the same structures as our linguistic intelligence.
The theory is that many of the same networks that decode language are also necessary for decoding finite math. A study led by cognitive neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene of INSERM used functional brain imaging to find that circuits in and around Broca’s, in the left frontal lobe, known to identify and make associations between words, also lights up when we try to make exact computations.
Less than 5 percent of the population appears to have a mathematical preference. These individuals prefer to work with numbers and mathematical equations over almost any other activity. They feel connected to the world when they’re involved with numbers. Those with a mathematical preference do well in fields like business, banking, accounting, stock analysis, engineering, and physics. People who have a large percentage of their math abilities in the spatial/3D areas tend to deal with big-picture numerical concepts. Conversely, people with math abilities in the structures that share language tend to focus on details and the exactness of calculations. These people also do well on the math portion of IQ and SAT tests. Famous math-dominant individuals include Euclid, Isaac Newton, René Descartes, John von Neumann, and Alan Turing.
Mathematical Preference: there are very few of us.
While your brain perceives billions of bits of sensory information each second from the skin, tongue, nose, ears, and eyes, it’s your emotions that tag which of these bits to pay attention to and which to ignore. There are members of our species who are much more sensitive to these bits of information than others. It can be said these people feel more than the rest of us, and because of this exquisite sensory acuity, they expend a good percentage of their neural energy emotionally processing sensory information so they can figure out exactly what is meaningful to them and what is merely noise.
Alone at last – Now I can think.
Individuals with this internal-emotional preference learn best by first taking in sensory information and then emotionally processing this information in private. Like Greta Garbo, the famous Swedish movie star of the 20s and 30s, said when she wanted to think, “I want to be alone.” Those with internal emotional-preference learning mechanisms cannot be hurried; they need time to sort through the complex array of emotional feed-forward and feedback loops that billions of bits of stimuli produce. Internal emotional processors are easily overwhelmed if their brains are bombarded by too many environmental stimuli. Over ninety years ago, Carl Jung would have labeled those with primary internal emotional processes as introverts. Psychologist Elaine Aron has written a very useful book for parents with children who have an internal emotional preference called The Highly Sensitive Child.
Internal emotional processors are the “thinkers” of our world. Our society relies on these internally sensitive individuals to solve problems and create art. Some of the most innovative and creative people in our society have an internal-emotional preference. Many inventors, scientists, investors, researchers, philosophers, poets, and painters are primarily internal emotional processors.
It’s believed that the inventors of the plow and the wheel were internal processors, as were philosophers such as Plato and Immanuel Kant and poets such as Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson.
Note that internal processors aren’t necessarily proficient in analyzing their own emotions. Some are, some aren’t. Many internal processors may be unconsciously competent at using their emotions to solve problems and be creative, but there’s a paradox, as many of these individuals lack self-awareness.
They don’t have to be aware of their feelings for their brains to effectively use their emotions on a subconscious level to make order out of the chaos in the world and solve problems.
Internal Preference: Plato was one
The second type of biological, emotional preference is a social- emotional preference. Being able to read others’ emotions allows us to be empathetic, which increases smooth interactions with others and our success in life. Whether you’re climbing the corporate ladder, chasing a political dream, pursuing romance, or just trying to get out of the checkout line of the grocery store, being able to read others’ feelings makes it all easier. Howard Gardner describes this modality as “the ability to notice and make distinctions among other individuals and, in particular, among their moods, temperaments, motivations, and intentions.”
Tests with more than 7,000 people show the benefits of reading others’ feelings, including being popular, outgoing, social, and well- adjusted, meaning our social skills are disrupted when the prefrontal lobes are injured by trauma or disease. The radical prefrontal lobotomies that were carried out on psychiatric patients until the 1960s wiped out these individuals’ ability to emotionally connect to themselves or others. Englishman Nicholas Humphrey, who introduced evolutionary psychology over forty years ago, pointed out that those individuals with the ability to intuit the behavior of others not only had the highest capacity to enter into diverse cooperative relationships but also achieved the greatest reproductive success. In Consciousness Regained, Humphrey says our social skills go “hand in hand with intellect.”
I understand you.
Together we can get this done.
Some anthropologists maintain that social interaction, not tool use, is not only the primary marker of evolutionary advancement but the. reason that the human brain increased in size and complexity. This progressively greater capacity for understanding each other’s emotions and intentions has allowed us to move from living in small groups of twenty-five or fewer millions of years ago to living in groups of a million or more today in cities like Tokyo and New York.
Individuals with the social-emotional preference as their primary modality have the exquisite ability to judge the emotional tone of others, which allows them to easily fit in with or lead groups. It’s the socially dominant among us who act as the glue to keep groups operating at high levels of efficiency. The socially dominant are attracted to roles such as many politicians, corporate heads, mediators, social workers, salespersons, nurses, and psychologists. Mahatma Gandhi, Lyndon Johnson, and Bill Clinton are examples of individuals with primary social intelligence. The fellow who was my youngest son’s godfather is a networking marketing guru who has used his emotional-social Biological Preference to amass a downline of over a million people. Whereas internal-emotional processors need to be alone to learn, those with the social-emotional preference desperately need interactions with others to stimulate the neural firing necessary to create a memory. They learn best in groups.
Next to the kinesthetic and tactile dominances, they have the most difficulty with traditional Stand and Deliver instruction. The teacher is always yelling at them to be quiet. For these individuals, the lack of social stimulation while they learn impedes logging information into their long-term memory. While those with a social-emotional preference are great at intuitively reading others’ emotions, because their neural energy is directed outward, we have found many have a difficult time connecting to their own emotions.
Findings show that serotonin, the main neurotransmitter that regulates mood, is highly concentrated in the brain centers that modulate social intelligence. Research on primates reveals that individuals whose behavior is socially well-tuned have an extremely high concentration of serotonin receptors in these emotional centers.
Conversely, low amounts of serotonin have been implicated in depression. Being depressed dramatically limits our ability to interact with others. Depression demands that we deal with this affliction in solitude; we just aren’t social when we’re depressed. The antidepressant Prozac is reported to act by blocking the uptake of serotonin in the brain, making sure that there will be more of it available to the brain, thus lessening depression and increasing the capacity for social interaction.
I can’t stand being here!