The Triune Brain

Understanding violence can be tricky (especially for those of us who haven’t seen more than a fight in Highschool), but I’ve come across some great models over the years to help categorize different types of violence as well as how to recognize their motivations.

One of the more handy models is the Triune Brain – a simplified version is as follows:

The human brain evolved in three epochs:

  • The Lizard
  • The Monkey
  • The Human

The Lizard being the oldest, and the Human being the youngest.

The older parts take precedence over the younger, and the younger parts are slower at processing input than the older parts. The older parts don’t become active until certain situations are encountered.

The Lizard Brain

Primarily concerned with survival, responsible for things like heartbeat and breathing. Someone operating in the Lizard Brain becomes unpredictable – think a drowning person – they are desperate to survive.

The Monkey Brain

The Monkey is concerned with tribalism, symbolism, and emotion. People operating in the Monkey Brain are emotional – and incredibly predictable.

The Monkey is where emotions come from/are interpreted. The Monkey will generally hijack the Human Brain in order to justify how it’s feeling. This is where things like Religious and Political Affiliations are chosen/defended (don’t argue with me – argue with the MRI data collected by experimenters).

The Human Brain

The new kid on the block – the Human Brain is where all the real cool stuff that humans do, like problem solving, and creativity. It is the slowest part of the brain and only really works when the person in question is calm and not feeling emotion.

More Information

For a really in-depth look at the Triune Brain and applying the understanding to interactions in life, I highly recommend Conflict Communication by Rory Miller.


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