Triune and Dual Process Models of Thinking

Triune and dual process models of thinking are clear precursors to the unified Mental Construction process.

Triune Brain

The triune brain postulates three brains working together–the reptilian brain, the old mammalian brain, and the new mammalian brain. It was developed by Paul MacLean starting in the 1960s.The triune brain emphasizes the importance of non-conscious brain activity in determining human behavior. It developed to explain observed behavior based on then current biological understandings.

Consider the Triune Model (figure below, left).

  • The base of the triangle is concerned with survival (the reptilian brain), composed of the brainstem and the cerebellum, and provides rigid, compulsive, and reflexive behavior.
The triune mind and the dual process model

The triune mind and the dual process model

  • Above the survival layer are the emotions created in the limbic layer, originating with the emergence of mammals. Its value judgements are often unconscious and may be called instinctive.
  • The pinnacle of human thinking is rational thought which requires the neocortex of humans.

An important feature of the triune brain is that the rational can sometimes overrule the emotional decision which can sometimes overrule the survival decision, but not indefinitely.

The Mental Construction process generally agrees with the three stage hierarchy. However Mental Construction develops the mechanism by which events are categorized and processed, based on properties of the neurons in the brain. A consequence of that examination leads to the recognition that rational layer must be split, very like that  envisioned by the Dual Process Model (in figure, right).

Dual Process Model

A dual process model asserts that two distinctively separate cognitive systems underlying thinking and reasoning. William James (p 674-675) called them associative and true reasoning. Others call the pair intuitive and logical. Keith Stanovich calls them System 1 and System 2.

These dual process explanations often focus on the distinction between an unconscious and a conscious decision. Significant psychological studies support the notion that two thought strands are simultaneously occurring in our brains.

The dual process model got a huge boast in visibility with Daniel Kahneman’s best seller Thinking, Fast and Slow. Thinking fast is our automatic, effortless approach to understanding and reacting to events. Although it’s usually good enough, we can make mistakes using its heuristic rules. Thinking slow occurs when we decide to make an effort to think through the events, their possible sources and consequences. It is fatiguing to apply our thoughts so diligently.

The Mental Construction process is in accord with this dual approach in the upper reaches of the brain, but its overarching theory of neural operations leading to mental phenomenon allows a new avenue to investigate the properties of the two systems.

The Table of Contents provides a organized entry to the Mental Construction theory.

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