Personality Neuroscience & Positive reinforcement

If OBM practitioners and NLP practitioners agree on one thing and this is that personality traits are not the best way to think about behavior. NLP practitioners because they fear that thinking in terms of personality traits limits people and OBM practitioners because OBM is a form of behaviorism and behaviorism doesn’t want spooky internal constructs like personality traits.

Yet, it is likely that science forces both groups to adjust their viewpoint as more neuroscience is pointing to the fact that personality traits follow from the biological structure of the brain. People who have the same Big Five personality test results tend to have the same physical brain structure on fMRI scans. The new field of Personality Neuroscience shows how  dopamine and oxytocin reward systems in our brain form our personality.

Almost all our behavior is learned and it is highly likely that the learning of our behaviors follows the ABC-model. We do more of what leads to rewards and we do less of what we are punished for in one form or the other. Learned behavior is coded in the brain through synaptic connections between brain cells. There are around one hundred billion brain cells, and each brain cell has thousands of synaptic connections so you can imagine how versatile this system is for coding behavior. Synaptic links for the growing steps in our behavior are often strengthened in the brain and for behavior we do less and less the synaptic links are weakened. One way to look at what we do with ABC-NLP is weakening the synaptic links between negative and unwanted behavior and strengthen the links between positive and desired behavior.

Yet, for the ABC-model to work there have to be neurological reward systems in our brain. In fact there are at least two: the dopamine reward system for material rewards and the oxytocin reward system for social rewards. Given that these reward systems are, according to the ABC-model, used to learn behavior, i.e. to strengthen and weaken synaptic links, these reward systems themselves need to be more than just synaptic links.

What the Big Five research shows is that beside the synaptic links the physical biological structure of the brain also counts when it comes to a very few specific behaviors. So while most of our behavior is learned and built out of synaptic links, some of our behavior is influenced by something more than just synaptic links. This something more is the physical structure of the brain. Although most people imagine that there is only one type of brain cell, in fact there are thousands of different types of brain cells. Some quite different than others. Depending on the physical structure of the brain, i.e. which kind of brain cells make up the brain, dopamine and oxytocin work better or less good. This has such a big influence on the following four Big Five personality traits that scientists find that our personality follows from the physical brain structure.

These four Big Five traits are: agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness and extraversion. These are of course typically the spooky constructs that OBM practitioners and NLP practitioners don’t like. Yet, within ABC-NLP we leave these spooky constructs behind and focus on the following behavioral patterns:

  1. People with less agreeableness act more individualistic while people with more agreeableness act more socially.
  2. People with less conscientiousness act more spontaneously, while people with more conscientiousness act more purposefully.
  3. People with less openness express more interest in concreteness, while people with more openness express more interest in abstract concepts.
  4. People with less extraversion act in a way to avoid risks, while people with more extraversion act more recklessly.

These four behavioral patterns can be described purely behavioristically and in terms of NLP strategies. For the record, the fifth Big Five trait, neuroticism, is a different story as it involves serotonin. More importantly, the Neurogram® is a dynamic version of the Big Five using the dynamics of the Enneagram. Which part of our character comes out in our behavior is dynamic rather than static. For that reason any static system for personality typing is a bad system. Unfortunately, all but a few systems for personality typing are static and of less value.

The claim we make with the Neurogram® is that these four behavior patterns are unlearned, but follow from the physical structure of the brain. These four behavioral patterns are untrainable either through the use of NLP or the use of the ABC-model, for in large part they are the underlying mechanism that enables the brain to learn through the use of the ABC-model or NLP. Hence it is important, given that there are significant differences, to take into account what kind of brain structure a person has when you want to work with them. For instance, because these differences explain why people prefer different kind of rewards. So for all these reasons we include the Neurogram® within ABC-NLP. For more details on the Neurogram®, please see our specialist website for the Neurogram®.