Ned Herrmann, pioneer of whole-brain quadrant model

The first four-quadrant head model for whole-brainedness was Ned Herrmann’s.  A summary intro.

Ned_Herrmann-pioneerExcerpted from:
Ned Herrmann was the head of management education at General Electric in the 1970’s and 80’s. His background was in physics; he was also active in artistic and cultural circles. This gave him an appreciation of different styles of creativity. During the late 1970’s he was asked to undertake reform of GE’s management training programs to make them more reflective of individual differences in learning and thinking style preferences (Herrmann, 1989). [This was at the time when Japanese corporations were more creative and innovative than U.S. Firms, which has become complacent.]

Herrmann’s initial categories emerged out of a factor analysis of 500 survey forms filled out by subjects participating in his thinking-styles research. The survey forms were revised and administered to a second group of 300 participants, and correlated with the original data. Based on those results, an initial thinking style assessment instrument was created. …(Herrmann, 1989[1]).

Substantial effort was made to validate the constructs underlying this model and the instrument for assessing it, internally and externally, including six different factor analysis studies. These studies found that four stable and discreet clusters of preferences did exist, that scores from the instrument were valid indicators of these clusters, and that scores permitted valid inferences about a person’s preferences and avoidances for each cluster, among other findings.

pioneer-whole-brain-herrmann472pxHerrmann’s research was energized by his understanding of the different processing specialties of the left and right hemispheres of the human isocortex, in the wake of Sperry’s studies with split brain patients in the 50’s and 60’s. [Herrmann was well-aware of right-left hemisphere thinking and had the wit, perhaps from Jung, to see four quadrants made more sense.] He was also influenced by Paul MacLean’s triune brain theory and by a general appreciation of the limbic system’s role in emotion, cognition and memory. (Herrmann, 1989[1])

[This] resulted in a model with four quadrants, one for each major system of the brain as he then understood it:
A: Frontal-left (cerebral) hemisphere – Person favors activities involving analysis, logic and fact-finding…
B: Basal-left (limbic) hemisphere – [Capacity for] abstract considerations, [capacity for] intensely focused and persistent – left limbic dominance.
C: Basal-right (limbic) hemisphere – A sensitive and receptive people-reader and mood-minder, evaluates issues in terms of their emotional and relational significance – right limbic dominance.
D: Upper-right (cerebral) hemisphere – [Capacity to be extravagant] and original, motivated by novelty, possibility, variety, oddities and incongruities, can be impersonal and fears structure…. ((Herrmann, 1989[1]) p. 79-85)

…In the early stages of his research, Herrmann took the hemispherical assignations in this model very seriously, trying to tie survey results very closely to anatomical brain regions. He later [wisely] abandoned [the strictly one-to-one anatomical] approach, using anatomical designators [only] as metaphors for the four thinking styles he was measuring. The instrument is still called the Herrmann Brain Dominance Indicator (HBDI). Quadrants are now referred to by the letters A, B, C, D, rather than by anatomical regions of the brain.

Charting individual thinking styles

Scores on the HBDI are presented on a radar diagram. [Katherine Bennziger calls these “kite diagrams.”] A circle is divided into quadrants A-D, and two diagonal axes are drawn like an “X” through the circle as well. The diagonal axes are graduated to indicate scores from the indicator, and a profile can be drawn on the diagram by connecting the scores together with lines. This will lead to an uneven quadrilateral that “points” in the direction of one’s dominant [preferred] style.

Beginning of language for whole-brain-thinking

If someone was equally dominant in all four quadrants, the polygon would be a perfect square. Herrmann admits “Quadruple Dominance” [or “whole-brained” thinking] as a possible cognitive profile. Whole-brained thinking carries the cost of greater [awareness of] internal conflict and longer decision-making processes [because more causative factors, ideally all causative factors are desirable to consider].

A sample radar diagram is reproduced. …
Quadrants are ranked. The above profile would be rendered “ABCD” = 3-3-1-1

1. Herrmann, N. (1989). The Creative Brain. Lake Lure, North Carolina: Ned Herrmann/Brain Books.

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