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The Brain is an Argument

the brain is an argument

One of my favorite chapters in Jonah Lehrer’s book How We Decide is entitled, The Brain is an Argument.

What does Lehrer mean by the brain is an argument? He uses the analogy of the Monitor newspaper’s decision to endorse the Clinton camp in an election. The decision was made by a board of five people. After months of debate behind the scenes, the board voted 3-2 to endorse Clinton.

The Monitor announced its decision and that was that; a simple and clear, singular endorsement that came across congruently. The paper had one endorsement to make and it did so. Done!

Yet, the reality is that the decision was anything but congruent.

Months of debating with a close 3-2 vote are anything but clear and congruent. Lehrer suggests in this book that the Monitor board’s process for coming to a decision mirrors every brain’s decision-making process. It’s an internal debate. When the winning decision is made, it’s rarely congruent. Parts of ourselves disagree, have concerns, or may even attempt to sabotage the outcome.

Lehrer points out the physical parts of brain anatomy that may conflict with each other, such as the amygdala disagreeing with the cortex. The end result of this scenario may be a rational decision to move forward accompanied by an irrational fear of doing so.

Psychological Parts in Disharmony

Psychological models also suggest different parts of ourselves that may remain in conflict with each other. When you adopt an inner child model, you allow for the existence of a part of you that may harbor its own beliefs, desires, and limitations. When your inner child wants one thing and you want another, you’ve got a situation on your hands.

One client described this kind of situation in the article: The Inner Child that Sabotaged Willpower and Weight Loss, published on Thrive Global.

How does one manage such inner disagreement?

By talking yourself through it. This is very hard to do when you don’t recognize that there are different parts of your personality. In fact, inner conflict makes no sense at all without recognizing contradicting opinions held by different aspects of your psyche.

There is such a thing as parts specialty training that address inner parts and how to work with them, but these fall to coaches and counselors, for the most part.

The Brain is an Argument

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2018). The Brain is an Argument. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Jul 2018
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