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Top Brain, Bottom Brain: Surprising Insights into How You Think

3.10  ·  Rating details ·  256 ratings  ·  37 reviews
One of the world’s leading neuroscientists teams up with an accomplished writer to debunk the popular left-brain/right-brain theory and offer an exciting new way of thinking about our minds. The second edition, with expanded practical applications, highlights how readers can harness the theory to succeed in their own lives.

For the past fifty years, popular culture has led
ebook, 240 pages
Published November 5th 2013 by Simon Schuster
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Aug 29, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cognition, science
There’s potentially a lot of promise behind this book, but as of today, it isn’t convincing enough.

The science and history presented in the first portion of the book almost make it worth reading, regardless of the flaws in the rest.

First, the discussion of the functional division of the various major structures in the brain was well done. For example, there is a great little diagram on page 29 that quickly and clearly delineates what the four lobes of the brain do (somewhat like this, but the bo
Feb 03, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book has five exceptional names on the back cover.

Stephen Pinker doesn't recommend the book itself. He commends Kosslyn as "one of the greats" of a certain recent time slice. I read this as Kosslyn amounting to a consistent selection to the second all-star team, maybe a first all-star once or twice, but lacking much hall of fame potential.

Daniel Gilbert uses the phrases "exciting new way" followed by "original, insightful and a sweet read to boot." The ideas presented here _are_ original
G. Miller
May 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
“Kosslyn is one of the world’s great cognitive neuroscientists of the late 20th and early 21st century.”
– Steven Pinker, bestselling author of The Language Instinct.

"An exciting new way to think about our brains, and ourselves. Original, insightful, and a sweet read to boot."
-- Daniel Gilbert, author of the International bestseller Stumbling on Happiness.

"Kosslyn and Miller have written a lively, informative, and easily assimilated summary of several important principles of brain function for th
Dani Turner
Aug 03, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This has got to be the most useless book I've ever read. I'm thoroughly confused by all its good reviews... This book was about as good as the weather anchor saying "well, there's a 50% chance of rain today. So. You know. It might rain. Or it might not!" ... except the author said... "well we didn't test this theory intensively, but, basically, you could either use your top brain more or less, or your bottom brain more or less, but they definitely work together, but it varies really." Okay. Cool ...more
Interesting book about the different functions of the brain. Now I understand people more and why some people don't think about how an action will affect other people and also people who don't have filters. ...more
Feb 06, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It was a challenge for me to continue reminding myself that this is just a "personality theory."

It was nice that they steered away form the left brain right brain conversation, and mentioned systemic brain functioning. It did seem a little bit limited on how they view the brain functioning as a system.

The neuroscience behind this was either really weak or poorly explained. The authors proposed that they were sticking with the "grey matter" in reference to how the brain interacts, but totally m
Jeff Brown
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, 2014
Read more like a pamphlet for a company team-building exercise than actual science. After reading some truly brilliant books on behavioral science ("The Invisible Gorilla", "Fast Thinking, Slow Thinking") that present large amounts of actual data and provided great insight, this did not hold up well. There is really just nothing here yet - the author has some ideas, and they may be worth studying, but at this point it is all fairly speculative some of it seems somewhat wrong-headed and biased. W ...more
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-and-tech
I put this book on my pile due to the praise from my favorite thinker Steven Pinker, but it didn't live up to my unrealistic expectations. The basic idea, drawn from author Kosslyn's deep neurological expertise, is that human brains, complex as they are, can be usefully summarized as carrying two main functions: planning and perceiving.

The book goes into plenty of detail, much backed by neurology, and with multiple anecdotal examples of how this plays out in real life. Unfortunately, the example
Jacek Sałacki
Oct 01, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I wish Goodreads has option to give rating of zero. Because this what that book is worth.
Jun Wen

Top Brain, Bottom Brain is an odd mix. It offers fresh perspective and illuminating insights about how we think. The paradigm it puts forward, if adopted, can be life-changing. I personally liked how it brought to attention blind spots in my own mode of thinking, resulting in an overall greater level of self-awareness . Yet despite all of this, Top Brain, Bottom Brain undeniably fails as a pop psychology book.

Top Brain, Bottom Brain's problems stem from a lack of concrete experiments and too

Anders Rasmussen
There are a ton of books out there exploring left/right brain dichotomy. Among them one finds decent science based books, as well as books filled with pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo. With this book I get the sense that the authors have observed that people like to be able to categorize people according to which part of the brain they appear to use the most, and then tried to come up with a novel divide. To their credit the authors do provide arguments for why the top/bottom brain perspective is b ...more
Morgan Blackledge
For various reasons (some good, some lame, all exhaustively detailed momentarily), I'm reluctant to harsh on this book. But alas, my honest assessment is that it is Close But Not Quite (CBNQ).

Top 10 -REALLY BAD- reasons I am reluctant to harsh this book.

10: I like the cover art/marketing. I was drawn in by the simple, clever cover art and promising sounding publishers blurb.

9: It was expensive. I paid full price. This triggered a bit of cognitive dissonance (in this case, the need to rationaliz
Katie Khuu
I read about 20% of this book before deeming it to be redundant and useless. From the start, I was very skeptical towards the questions in the quiz to determine which mode I prefer to use the most. They seemed random and silly and were quite short (20 questions). This book then goes on and on about how scientific the theory of top/bottom brain is, and even took a jab at its nemesis, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and how unscientific and made-up it is. However, because of the way this book is w ...more
Oct 06, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The authors argue that the accepted view of the brain as right (creative) and left (analytical) halves is oversimplified and unsupported by the scientific research. Instead, they posit that it is more supported by research, nuanced and practical to view the brain as top and bottom parts that work together. Based on a person's tendency to use or not use their top and bottom brain, the authors divide into 4 "modes" of operating, identifying strengths and weaknesses within each. Included in a latte ...more
Vinayagamoorthy Kuppusamy
The concept is definitely good. However, like most other scientists, these people also have not yet perceived the importance of "Default mode network" and how coupling the "left brain" and "right brain" with default mode network steer a person throughout his life. They have mentioned temperament but only that much. This in fact, I believe, decides how a person ends up using his top brain and bottom brain. In that sense I would recommend the book "Please Understand me 2" by David Keirsey which he ...more
Jan 06, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting theories, but I don't think the evidence was laid out as clearly as it could be. The support for it seemed mainly subjective which tends to be the issue with qualitative type research, but it presents some questions or stirrings of what could be asked about the brain and the problem solving capabilities. There seems to be a strengths-based approach to viewing people in this as well. ...more
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone looking seeking self improvement.
As someone who is looking to improve myself &move forward in my life, I found this book to be a great addition to my systems for growth. Knowing how my brain addresses situations, &how I can improve to be more well rounded gives me another leg up in my quest for self-discovery.
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pioneering theory. Steeped with fool proof examples. Closes with a great history of the human brain. One of the best books on human brain.
Sep 20, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I do not regret buying this book, or listening to it (audio version). Up through Chapter 7 it provided a nice context for the reader to understand where the authors' theory comes from. And the fairly simple system of thinking "modes" probably has some value for making quick observations or decisions, perhaps for analyzing potential employees or partners.

However, I think the theory behind the book is much weaker than it could have been. It is an oversimplified approach based on a dichotomy betwee
Top Brain, Bottom Brain's greatest strength is undoubtedly its ability to clearly, if rather stiltedly, explain the scientific basis for its Theory of Cognitive Modes. I found the neuroscience and psychological experiments fascinating, and I especially enjoyed Kosslyn and Miller's invitation to the scientific community to, essentially, critique and challenge their conclusions. That's an unusual statement to find in a personality book, to say the least.

Where the book is weaker is in the theory, i
Nina M.
May 28, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The difficult part of giving a rating of 2 is that I know Kosslyn has been immensely influential to the field of cognitive neuroscience. But getting a character-reference by Pinker isn't enough. I have full respect for Kosslyn as a thinker. As such, I would recommend his book "The Case for Mental Imagery".

This is clearly a pop-science book, meant for an uninitiated audience. Clearly they want to ride the neurohype to sell a few books. What the authors don't seem to grasp is that their typical ne
Nov 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
i recently received Top brain, Bottom brain as a free first reads from goodreads giveaway. I have mixed feelings about this book, while it was informative the authors desire to give credit to the people he quoted or used case studies from and the flipping back and forth for the footnotes made it a very hard read. But i did learn i think with the top right part of my brain mostly and did enjoy the tests that were in the book.I think it might be one of those books i'll have to read a couple times ...more
Vinod Peris
May 23, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The authors make it out to look like they have found some ground-breaking discovery of how the brain works, but there’s nothing like that in there. They argue that the left-right brain divisions are a simplification of the complex “technology” that your brain is made up of. However, they are guilty of the same sin with the top/bottom divisions. There’s hardly anything worthwhile that they explain with their model and I was totally unimpressed. Avoid this book.
This book, which I won through the First Reads program, was a typical case of a too-pop psychology book. There was no real intellectual meat here, no science or studies, no proper methods followed. It felt at times like a strange blend of a "Chicken Soup" book and a copy of Us Weekly. Okay to kill time, but I wouldn't read it again or waste money on it. ...more
Eslam Elsheikh
Very interesting facts, nevertheless the book is giving a pure and plain scientific point of views in which there are no entertainment for some level of reader who depend generally in interesting and attracting elements. In general it is a very useful book in giving you certain knowledge on how your brain generally function.
It was an interesting book to read. The concept of thinking "modes" is the main subject of the book. However, I feel these thinking modes are already described in other research with just different names. The concept of top brain bottom brain is new and contrary to the right brain, left brain concept that I am more familiar with. ...more
Ashley Cavnar
Not a bad book but the authors seem to take in little to no account of neuroplasticity research that's out there regarding the ability to change our brains. They tried to avoid an oversimplified dichotomy but I don't feel they completely managed it. ...more
Drew Coffman
May 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was weird in that I read the entire thing and nodded my head the whole time but at the end looked back and I never highlighted anything? Lots of interesting ideas, or things that affirmed thoughts I already had, but nothing definitive enough to want to keep?

Take that as you will.
Temani Aldine
Dec 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit academic, but I feel like I walked away with greater awareness of how the brain works and affects human behavior.
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Stephen Michael Kosslyn (born 1948) is an American psychologist who specializes in the fields of cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Until 31 December 2010 he was John Lindsley Professor of Psychology in Memory of William James and Dean of Social Science at Harvard University, having previously been chair of the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. As of 1 January 2011, he ...more

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