Overall score 7/10
The Neuroscience of Personality is a book that analyzes brainwave patterns in different regions of our brain to better teach us how to shift into our natural flow-state. Everybody’s flow-state is a different and we get there via different paths. I’m using the information from the book to become more productive and to spend more time of my day in whole-brain thinking.
I’ll be INTJ-centric, since that’s where I’m coming from and one of the main things we learn from the book is that the INTJ draws upon the whole brain to realize an answer to novel problems, so in order to spend time in this brainwave pattern or flow state it is important to be exposed to novel and complex problems, which causes Ni types to seek to harness all neocortex regions in order to “realize” an answer.
Imagine a troop of blind men trying to identify a secret object by touch. One man feels a trunk and says, “tree”; another detects four legs and says “table”; a third feels tusks and says “boar”. Like the blind men, each region offers a different perspective, and zen-like synchronous state allows the person to reconcile various perspectives to arrive at a best-fit answer (an elephant).
In order to enter this state, the Ni-dominant (INTJ/INFJ) has to sit down and focus on a single question, and shut out all distractions. Another trigger for this zen state occurs when asked to imagine the future in as much detail as possible, focusing on what will occur. This occurs in the Temporal part of the neocortex (T6), located to the back of the head towards the right side (See graphic). So activating this part of the brain causes a ripple effect to bring the whole brain into an orchestrated symphony.
Finally, INTJ’s have strong visual thinking regions (O1 and/ or O2) and are open to novelty and impression (Fp2 located at the right-front part of the brain). Dario Nardi explains that this combination makes it particularly difficult to explain and to express ideas… And this is no doubt one reason why we opt to keep quiet in larger social settings and prefer to communicate in writing.
What is so unusual about INTJ’s is that most people use their whole brain and enter a flow-state when they engage in activities for which they have acquired a substantial amount of experience, but an INTJ enters a flow-state when thinking about something completely new. In a sense, they are experts of the unknown.
A great tip that results from this brain science is that INTJ’s in particular can benefit from physical or sensory focus, f.ex. using a finger while reading, to stay focused while gathering information. The book also corroborates one of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s main points in the book Finding Flow since Nardi discovers that brain activity spikes when both competence and motivation are present. In other words, balance should be sought between Skills and Challenges and something cannot be too difficult or too easy. If it is too difficult you will give up and if it is too easy you will get bored. I want to use this information in various ways and I will try as much as possible to enforce rules like using my finger and touching things in order to learn and stay focused. I think it also makes sense to add envisioning my future as part of my repertoire in meditation, which consists of breathing and body-scanning.
One caveat is the danger of reading too much into these results as vetted science. The results are still at the earlier end of the theory life-cycle and much could be proven to be false as more data becomes available. Dario Nardi’s book warns us that the neocortex has 6 layers, and that EEG’s only pick up activity in the top layer. While this is a convenient, non-invasive technology, it does transform the discipline from a Neuroscience to a Neuro-art. And the enthusiastic MBTI fan (like me mind you) should be vigilant about reading too much into the neuroscience data as validation for MBTI.
This book has a lot of interesting tidbits, but I’m also torn in my review. I love Dario Nardi’s work as he brings such interesting concepts and ideas to the table and I want to love this book. I’ve spent countless hours on YouTube staring up his all-too-close-to-the-camera nose because I can’t get enough (and if you’ve done the same then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about). However, I think mostly I did not enjoy spending over $20 for a book that was only available in paperback. Kindle should have been an option for at most $15.00. Only a small part of the book applies to you individually and much of the book contains fluff that you would probably have seen elsewhere as a student of MBTI. After watching his genuinely riveting hour-long Google Talk, I think that most of the information that he wanted to convey had already been delivered. This book helps to distill those concepts and makes them a little more concrete with a more in-depth discussion of your type, but the section on Introverted Intuition is only two pages, where I was hoping for a chapter, so I was hoping for a little more depth to be honest. But the topic is fascinating and I don’t want to discourage you from exploring more. Try the Google talk, download this fascinating discussion with the Personality Hacker team, and if you’re hungry for more buy the book and judge for yourself.