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Your Brain Behavior

Section B Part 2c. Five Driving Forces:  The Five P’s of Threat and Reward

Before we take a look at the specific domains of threat and reward, I want to put the brain into the framework of our daily lives. The context that I want to start with is this: “What do we want as human beings?” This is a subject that people have been writing about for years. This brief commentary will be a little different in that I am going to take a look at it, mostly, from the brain’s perspective.


If you examine the literature, you can find many papers and books on what we want as human beings. The list of items that results from this research gets to be quite long and can become very disorganized. If you look at it from the viewpoint of the brain, however, it can become a little easier to see what’s going on.


One of the concepts that I addressed in Brain Dynamic # 3 is the three “layers” of the brain (Page 39 and 40) As a reminder, the ‘bottom’  layer is known as the reptilian brain, the next layer is known as the limbic system, and the ‘top’ layer is the neocortex. If we look at the “focus” of each of these three parts, it can help us to understand what it is we want…or, more specifically, what each of these layers of the brain wants:


If we pull this apart, we can see that there are five major drivers that impact these three layers:


  • Protection:         i.e., to feel safe, secure, and, hence, survive

  • Participation:     i.e., to join in and be welcomed as part of a tribe

  • Prediction:         i.e., to be able to foresee what is going on

  • Purpose:            i.e., to be able to have a sense of meaning

  • Pleasure:           i.e., to enjoy ourselves


Let’s explore these in a little more detail. I will take each of the five areas, or domains, and expand into some specific facets. These facets have come from a variety of sources, and I believe it to be fairly comprehensive. The list, however, is not intended to be totally complete or rigorous from a scientific viewpoint. Rather it is to provide a basis for you to start to think about the types of things that you want and/or are driven by. In what areas do you find yourself emotionally or socially threatened or triggered? This is one of the first steps to self-awareness.


The list came from an analysis of various books, assessments, and a treatise on human needs and the human condition. I gathered various words or groups of words that seemed to come up again and again. Some of these words seemed as though we might react differently to them according to our context, i.e., whether we were at work or at home or in our social or private lives.


I then grouped all of these facets into the five domains.


The list of the facets is on the next two pages, followed by some overall comments about how you might think about them. Then I go into further explanation of each of the facets, some of the science behind them and finish with a question about how that facet might apply to you.


As you read the list (if you read the list) you might find yourself for certain facets saying something to the effect... “Well that’s not important to me.” For other facets, you will nod your head in agreement. That’s perfectly natural. We all assign different weightings to each of these facets. As you read this list, it might be useful to assign a numeric value to each of the facets on a scale of 1 to 10, according to how important that facet is to you.


And how would knowing a value be of interest to you? Let’s say you score very high on any given facet, i.e., it is very important to you. If you are faced with a situation that causes that facet to be in question, then your brain might experience the situation as a threat which can trigger off your brain’s reaction to threats. In addition, if something is important to you, and you see someone else not doing it, then that too might trigger a reaction in you.


Let’s take an example. Let’s say delivering against your commitments is important to you. You will strive to deliver what you say you will deliver. You will want to live up to your word. If something or someone prevents you from delivering, then that might cause you to get triggered. In addition, if other people don’t deliver against their commitments, that also might cause you to get triggered.

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