In Lab - Archive


We continue along the ideal path of professional aptitudes we started in the first number of Pneurama this year.

Individual personality traits are the ingredients of a chemical compound that guides the implicit direction of our behaviour. In metaphorical terms, they are the “liqueurs” in a “cocktail” called personality. The human brain is a fascinating “thinking machine”, the non-accidental outcome of the five-hundred-million-year evolution of the species, which the experts call phylogenesis. We are all born with a brain inside our cranium, and every brain is similar in structure and potential. At the start of perception we are all biologically similar but what makes our behaviour different are the unique and unrepeatable dynamics of adaptation that characterize our life adventure (ontogenesis).
A human being’s life adventure moves between environmental stimuli and the more or less self-promoting responses of individuals. The environmental stimuli are represented by the geographical, economic, social and educational aspects that we encounter during our existence. The fate of these stimuli depend in many ways on our adaptive responses. Throughout our lifetime we continually arrive at implicit educational crossroads, adapt to environmental requests or adapt the environment to our needs. Our personality is built and stabilizes in the post-adolescent stage as the result of subjective training consisting of countless adaptive responses to the environment and/or adaptation of the environment. When we are young, the repertoire and scripts of our conduct are the result of training by repeated trials and the adjustment of errors and they are consolidated and become our implicit and fundamental behavioural strategies when we are adults.  Two personality traits that obviously characterize individuals and suggest work and life paths that are very different can be defined in everyday language as special aptitudes and general aptitudes.

The cortex system: (left and right cortex) linear thinking and metaphorical thinking
The cerebral cortex (or neocortex because of its relatively recent structure) is, geographically-speaking, in the upper part of our brain. On average it is three millimetres thick and has a much higher number of neurons than the other cerebral structures. In evolution terms, the cerebral cortex was formed about four million years ago. Its numerous folds, called gyri, increase the surface area of the cranium to 2300 cm2, the size of a tablecloth for six people. It is the main reason for our extraordinary adaptability to environments and our extraordinary ability to adapt environments to our needs. The cortex is the part of the brain that is responsible for thinking and therefore is the most adept at finding out about a given environment and making changes to it.  The human mammal has the most advanced cortex of all species and this denotes maximum environmental knowledge.
Our brain sets off on its life adventure with a budget of about ten billion neurons that can join together to create about 10,000 billion potential, non-random neuron connections. The vast majority of these connections (neuron networks) are nothing other than the representation of our human experience which is, in certain ways, unique and unrepeatable. Human beings write their life adventures in neuron programs.  The quantity of neurons being equal, the associations and the connection networks of many neurons depend on the random and specific nature of educational  environments and on the subjective selectivity of every individual. The quantity of neurons being equal, the cerebral cortex roots different associations and neurological networks if it is mainly exposed to a natural environment (agricultural, marine, etc.), a preindustrial social culture, a conventional urbanized environment or an industrial social culture. The neurological networks of an individual who has frequented both environments will be different.
Morphologically, the cerebral cortex consists of two interconnected symmetric hemispheres (left and right hemisphere) the shape of a shelled walnut. The left hemisphere is better at processing phenomena concerning time factors, with strict cause-effect reasoning, chronological scanning (before/after, upstream/downstream) of projects, with linear verbal and arithmetical languages and analytical thought processes that tend to enhance and investigate a detail by putting the rest of the context in the background. The right hemisphere is better at handling information concerning space factors and is activated by the senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste,  movement) that move in space with non-verbal, metaphoric and associative languages, with reasoning by analogies and similarities and methodical and global thought processes that tend to enhance everything and the essential links that join the parts of which it is composed and tone down the analytical investigation of the single parts.  For example, in an advertisement the written and spoken language is handled mainly by the left hemisphere while the evocative images are handled mainly by the right hemisphere, the linear descriptive aspects by the left, the seductive and metaphoric aspects by the right. At the sight of a wood, the left hemisphere tries to focus on some of the trees to get to know them in detail. The right hemisphere tends to distance itself from the wood to have an overall view. With the left hemisphere we are able to appreciate the rigorous linearity of a scientific subject. With the right hemisphere we are able to appreciate the amusing and unexpected discontinuity of the final part of a joke or the metaphorical paths made by poetic images or, even, suggested by fairy tales or symbolic parables. The two methods of thought are in complementary competition, the dominance of one can tend to momentarily exclude the other, but the cerebral dialectic guarantees their complementary nature and integration. We cannot fully understand how everything interacts (methodical-metaphorical vision) if we do not know enough about the parts of which it is composed (analytical vision). So, we cannot grasp the real meaning of the parts (analytical vision) if we do not put them in relation to the entire context that surrounds them. Environmental conditions and sociocultural stimuli are the gym where our thought paradigms and aptitudes are exercised, reassured and constructed.
It is possible to say that, because of the environmental stimuli (objective conditions) and the self-promoting selections by individuals (subjective conditions), there are people who show in a way that is more or less evident a pre-eminence for analytical thought rather than methodical thought and vice-versa. There is daily evidence that some behaviour is mainly analytical, marked by order, precision and the analysis of details. Conversely, the behaviour of other individuals is mainly methodical,  inspired by “vital disorder”,  the creative management of unexpected situations and the contemporary orchestration of several organizational factors. In terms of the consistency between aptitude profile and professional profile, professions that govern complex, multi-factorial, unpredictable and eclectic systems, require a commitment that is more methodical than analytical. This field includes entrepreneurial activities such as sales, personnel management, services, social animation, politics, and so on. The professions with more specialized, very focused activities, with a wealth of precise and numerical measuring tools and models for technological and scientific thought, require an analytical rather than a methodical approach. Coming under this category is accounting, administration, production, research and development, crafts, practical techniques. The two aptitudes (analytic and methodical) cohabit at different levels in different individuals because of their life adventure. In the issue after the next Peurama we will continue this subject and describe the behavioural signs that help to direct a self-certification aptitude towards a career.


Roberto Vaccani
Educator, consultant on organization and organizational behaviour and senior lecturer at SDA Bocconi, Milan

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