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The Layers of the Brain, and How to Hack Them

The human brain has been touted as the most complex object in the known universe. In fact, we’re only beginning to understand the brain and its potential. Neurologists can’t tell you exactly how the brain works; they can only patch together observations and tell you where the brain lights up when dealing with different tasks and experiences. These advances in neuroscience, however vague they may seem, are already enough for us to being hacking the brain.

As it turns out, there are 3 main parts to the brain, and each part developed one after another as humans evolved over the millennia. The first and oldest part of the brain is what scientists refer to as “the croc brain.” This part of the brain deals with base level emotions and desires. For example, this is the part of the brain that tells you when you’re feeling hungry, scared, angry, or alert. The next part of the brain, developed just after the croc brain, is the “mid level brain.” This is the social part of the brain, which recognizes people and events and sorts them into social contexts. Finally, the latest edition to the human brain is called the “neocortex.” This is the most sophisticated and evolved layer, dealing with logic, reasoning, thought and language.

Levels of the human brain

The human brain is made up of three distinct levels: the croc brain, the mid brain, and the neocortex.

Oren Klaff, author of Pitch Anything, has made note of what little we know about how the brain works, and how we can use those shreds of knowledge in practical, everyday situations. Klaff, however, isn’t fully capitalizing on his findings. While his neuroscience-inspired techniques are great for persuading others face-to-face, Digital Influence has put these methods on steroids and applied them to mass markets of giant proportions. In doing so, we’ve systematically influenced large-sized crowds for the ends of helping our clients dominate their industries. Although we’ve pioneered these techniques and have always guarded them as trade secrets, we’re now going to share their foundations in a detailed and comprehensive marketing guide.

Reverse Engineering Humanity

Here’s a breakdown of the different levels of the brain and what they deal with. It’s important to note that new information  is received and filtered in this order. As such, we’re able to create a flowchart and guide detailing how we process information.

Brain Information Processing Flowchart

This flowchart explains how the brain processes information and how we can use that knowledge in order to influence our target.

Examining the above flowchart, we’re able to understand how the different sections of the brain — the croc brain, mid brain, and neocortex — process and pass on information. Since the process acts like a funnel, we want to achieve a desired reaction as early in the process as possible.

For example, suppose we’re pitching to investors; our goal here is to convince the target that our deal will make them money. Conventionally, one might approach the task by creating a PowerPoint with financial projections and statistics. Actually, the quickest way to convince the target to invest would be to hold a gun against his head and make threats.

One approach targets the neocortex brain, and the other targets the croc brain. Of course, the law and other perceived repercussions significantly limit us in influencing the croc brain to the point of rapid action. That being said, we definitely don’t want to purposely skip over the easier, beginning processes and head straight to the skeptical neocortex.

What we need to do is apply maximum pressure (within reason) to all levels of the brain, with the goal of getting a favorable outcome as soon as possible, preferable before the neocortex.

In Pitch Anything, Klaff talks about designing your pitch with all levels of the brain in mind. Continuing with the example of pitching to investors, we should start designing our pitch by taking into account the croc brain.

The croc brain is primarily concerned with two things: danger and novelty. Anything dangerous — which in this context might be pushy, needy, desperate, or nervous — and the croc brain responds by pushing away. If it’s anything that’s not new or novel, it signals to the brain that we already know this information and, to save energy, it can be ignored.

Keep Them Hooked & Hot with Trigger Points

In a pitch, we want to hit the trigger points at every level. We want to present novel information, get the audience emotionally involved with edge-of-your-seat stories we start but never finish, and we want to be the opposite of needy (actually, this is great information for the dating as well).

Here’s a breakdown of the trigger points organized by brain level. We should approach the process in this order, and we should always steer clear of the neocortex when possible and appropriate.

  1. Croc Brain
    • Don’t be needy; you are the prize.
    • Present new and exciting information.
    • Hook the audience like a master story teller.
    • When attention dies down, start telling a story to liven the crowd up. However, don’t reveal the ending. Leave them at the edge of their seat. Now that you have their attention, get back to your pitch.
    • Apply time pressure, but don’t make them feel strong-armed. Time pressure is a powerful tool, but using it too readily or too strongly could lead to suspicion and distrust.
    • Show movement. Here’s a thought experiment: imagine yourself sitting atop a cliff looking over a valley. The view is beautiful and still, very still. There’s a lot of things to look at — trees, a small pond, and the long grass. However beautiful the scenery, you’re unfocused and lost between all the different elements in sight. Now imagine, suddenly, a wild bronco races across the valley, kicking up dirt and prancing around. Now you’re focused on the horse, and the bronco has your full attention. In this state, you’re highly reactive — if the horse starts charging at you, you’re going to get up and move. When you present an idea without movement, you’re just another element in a sea of details. When you present an idea that incorporates movement, you’re going to command attention and be able to trigger a response.
  2. Mid Brain
    • Dress the part, act the part. Whether we like it or not, as social animals we automatically compartmentalize people into social groups. Oftentimes this is based off of a quick glance at your outfit, so be sure to look professional.
    • Confidence, charisma, and charm are enormously important and let the target know that you’re the alpha in this situation. Being the alpha means people operate within your frame, and that you control the direction and set the tone of the conversation. In every situation, there’s an alpha and there’s a beta. In order to be the alpha, you’ll need to learn how to flip the frame and gain control. Briefly, this means that, if you find yourself in the beta position, challenging the alpha, breaking his frame, and making him operate in your frame.
    • Talk the talk, walk the walk. Be sure you’re language skills are up to par in order to match the style you’re going for.
    • Keep their attention with the push/pull method. Attention is held and given for two reasons: a reward (what I want) and tension (will I get what I want). Showing the reward and then threatening to take it away creates a push/pull effect that holds people’s attention, a technique widely used in storytelling.
    • Make tension your best friend. Tension is the backbone of every story. Think about it — could you imagine a movie or a good book without tension? Tension keeps us interested and on our toes, and it goes far beyond stories. Creating a bit of  People are often afraid to use tension as a tool because they’re afraid of confrontation, however there’s a way around this. In order to utilize tension and still be seen as a friendly figure, be sure to put on a big white smile while you do it. This subconsciously communicates to the target that while you mean well, you intend to be the alpha and you command respect.
  3. The Neocortex (avoid when possible)
    • Surprise! There are no trigger points for the Neocortex, because trigger points are tools to encourage a reactionary, desired response. The neocortex is cold and calculating, rational and analytical. There’s nothing wrong with having your product or idea vetted by the neocortex, but it’s persuasion on hard mode. When you find yourself talking to someone’s neocortex, use a trigger point from the croc or mid brain and get back on friendlier turf.

Now we know how to persuade people, but let’s put this thing on steroids and apply it to large markets. Part 2 to before the end of this week.


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