Thinking Style Science

Brainy matters!

Science is based on observation and experimentation. We believe exploring a thinking style is part observation and part experimentation. Thinking style science is evolving, and like the internal activities of the brain complex, not yet fully understood. Both are the ongoing subject of investigation–involving both professional opinions and conjecture.

We built the Zone of Genius thinking style instrument to explore the four archetypical ways that individuals/entrepreneurs think. Based on our rigorous assessment and observations, we have named these four thinking styles:

Visionary – Architect – Builder – Cultivator

The analysis from now over 10,000 responses has confirmed the presence of four main core thinking styles. Consistent feedback from our assessment results and survey-takers has validated both the reliability and repeatability of our findings. Additionally we get regular feedback on how easy the assessment is to complete and how useful and empowering it is.

Thinking styles have been assessed and discussed for many decades. Instead of trying to explain what other more learned individuals do better, here are some insights into their published and peer reviewed works. Personally when asked about the science behind thinking styles, I usually trace it back to Carl Jung and applaud Dr Katherine Benziger for her years of research and expertise in the field. Her version of a four quadrant thinking style model is explained in detail on her site:

Dr Katherine Benziger 1.

The Benziger thinking styles assessment is a complete contrast to the theoretical and philosophical basis of most psychometric tests. The Benziger assessment focuses on the physiological and neurological aspects of how our brains actually function. This makes it arguably a more objective assessment than many psychometric tests.

The model focuses on function and energy consumption of the brain, recognizing that the brain has four specialized areas responsible for different functions. Significantly, we each have natural strengths in only one of these specific areas, and thus we quite naturally prefer to use the thinking style associated with that strength. This is referred to as the “preferred thinking and behavioral mode”.

  • Basal left brain functions: order and habit; ordered procedures; sequential routines – remembers definitions; remembers what is – as described.
  • Basal right brain functions: spiritual experience; rhythm and feeling; harmony –  remembers definitions; picks up emotional tone and the presence or absence of harmony; how things are and how we feel about it.
  • Frontal right brain functions: internal imaging; metaphor and imagination; expressiveness –  sees the essence of things, in pictures and metaphors.
  • Frontal left brain functions: structural analysis; prioritizing and logic; mathematics – converts into logical results or effects; leads to, or produces results.

Exploring the Benzinger four quadrants in our terms, we discovered the following correlations:

  • Visionary (Frontal-Right)
  • Architect (Frontal-Left)
  • Builder (Basal-Left)
  • Cultivator (Basal-Right)

Benziger identified that when people adapt their natural thinking and working styles to fit expectations of others, normally created by work and career, tension and stress results. In these instances, people tend to “falsify type” as they think and behave in ways that are unnatural to them. Predictably this creates problems in their work performance.

Dr Ned Herrmann 2.

Another four-quadrant approach was researched and developed by Ned Herrmann over 35 years ago, and today is offered to business clients worldwide by Herrmann International: More than 2 million Herrmann Brain Dominance Instruments (HBDIs) have been administered and have provided powerful results for these “Thinkers” and the organizations they work in.

Ned Herrmann, founder of Herrmann and originator of Whole Brain ® Thinking, first pioneered the study of the brain in the field of business while in charge of Management Education at General Electric Corporation’s world-class corporate university, Crotonville. He published his initial research as a two-part series in T+D Magazine in 1981-1982 (The Creative Brain, Parts I & II).

His first widely acclaimed book, “The Creative Brain,” traced the scientific and historical roots of his innovative Whole Brain ® Thinking approach. In 1995, his groundbreaking “The Whole Brain Business Book” (McGraw Hill) created a new benchmark in thinking styles research specifically as it applies to critical business areas such as leadership, productivity, sales and teamwork.

Prof. Anthony Gregorc 3.

Gregorc’s Mind Styles Model (1984) uses perceptual and thinking/ processing modes to determine four preferred learning styles. There are four  combinations of the strongest perceptual and ordering ability in each individual: No one is a “pure” style. Each of us have a unique combination of natural strengths and abilities.

  1. Concrete Sequential (CS)
  2. Abstract Random (AR)
  3. Abstract Sequential (AS)
  4. Concrete Random (CR)

Dr Robert Sternberg 4.

In his book: Thinking Styles, psychologist Robert Sternberg argues that our ability often goes unappreciated and uncultivated not because of lack of talent, but because of conflicting styles of thinking and learning. Using a variety of examples that range from scientific studies to personal anecdotes, Dr. Sternberg presents a theory of thinking styles that aims to explain why aptitude tests, school grades, and classroom performance often fail to identify real ability. He believes that criteria for intelligence in both school and the workplace are unfortunately based on the ability to conform rather than to learn.

He takes this theory a step further by stating that “achievement” can be a result of the compatibility of personal and institutional thinking styles, and “failure” is too often a result of a conflict of thinking styles, rather than a lack of intelligence or aptitude. Dr. Sternberg presents his revolutionary ideas in a way that is accessible to any educated reader. This provocative book suggests a real change in how we measure achievement and will inspire educators, employers, and parents alike.   

Robert Bramson 5.

Bramson explained that there are different types of thinking for different situations. He encouraged individuals to adapt and elect the ‘right’ style for different situations. In his research, and in the book he co-authored with Allen  Harrison –“The Art of Thinking, he clearly identified five basic styles of thinking:

The Synthesist: Sees likeness in apparent unlikes, seeks conflict, interested in change

The Idealist: Welcomes broad range of views, seeks ideal solutions

The Pragmatist: “Whatever works,” seeks shortest route to payoff

The Analyst: Seeks “one best way,” interested in scientific solutions

The Realist: Relies on “facts” and expert opinions, interested in concrete results                                                


  1. Dr Katherine Benziger –
  2. W. Edward “Ned” Herrmann –  Wikipedia,      
  3. Prof. Anthony Gregorc – Wikipedia           
  4. Dr. Robert Sternberg – Wikipedia, Cambridge University Press         
  5. Robert Bramson – “The Art of Thinking

Thinking styles are also known as Cognitive styles:  – Cognitive styles