Thinking Styles and the US Presidential Candidates: It’s HOW they think as well as WHAT they think

Thinking Styles and the US Presidential Candidates: It’s HOW they think as well as WHAT they think

We know thinking preferences play a part in the decision-making process, and many US residents are facing a big, once-every-four-years decision right now: who they will elect as President.

Putting aside political or ideological differences, when we look at the thinking styles of the two major party candidates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and their respective running mates, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, we can see some distinct differences. It’s an interesting exercise, because how the candidates think impacts the approaches they use in stating their cases to the voters.

To shed some light on the thinking preferences of the two parties’ candidates, we recently conducted a pro forma process, which is a way to use published information to analyze someone’s thinking and estimate what their preferences might be.

It’s not an actual HBDI® Profile generated from the assessment, but it does provide some clues about how and why different voters react to the different candidates and their different styles.

Your own thinking preferences affect your reactions to the different approaches. Whether you are more convinced by logical arguments or emotional appeals, for example, has roots in your preferences for thinking in each of the four quadrants (A – logical, B – detailed, C – expressive, D – big picture), as depicted by the Whole Brain® Model.

Understanding thinking styles helps clarify your thinking and decision making, as well as better understand how others (like our spouse/partner, family members or friends) make those decisions.

As you look at the pro forma profiles for the candidates below, consider your reaction to the styles you have observed:

  •  How do your thinking style preferences impact your reactions, opinions and decision-making as a voter?
  • Aside from your political leanings, what approaches tend to inspire you or irritate you most?

Q & A on Whole Brain® Thinking

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The Whole Brain® Model (shown above), based on 30 years of research, is a validated metaphor for how we think, providing a useful framework to diagnose and describe the different types of thinking involved in any organization. It divides thinking into four quadrants, two on the “left brain” side and two on the “right brain” side. All four of the different thinking modes are in use and available to all of us, but we tend to prefer certain types over others.

 In what kinds of situations can Whole Brain® Thinking be used?

 Any situation that requires thinking that goes beyond a given quadrant’s specialized mode can benefit from Whole Brain® Thinking. To insure that each quadrant has been explored in a given process, an approach called a Walk-Around™ is used. (The Walk-Around™ pad is a great tool for facilitating this.)

Here are four examples of frequently used applications of Whole Brain® Thinking:

Decision Making

Most decisions benefit from a thought process that includes the review of multiple options and perspectives. A typical example is the purchase of a car. Quadrant A thinkers look at information on the actual performance of the vehicle. Quadrant B thinkers read a consumer report to gather research on the reliability and practical features (trunk size, safety records, etc.) of the vehicle. Quadrant C thinkers test drive the car to see if it “feels” right. And Quadrant D focuses on the aesthetics, color, styling and innovations of each model.

Using Whole Brain® Thinking—the thinking of all quadrants—contributes to a better choice and avoids unpleasant surprises. Overlooking even one quadrant can result in a less than ideal outcome.

Problem Solving

Every problem situation can benefit from a Quadrant A review of the data and facts, as well as an analysis of the real problem at hand; the Quadrant D “big-picture” context and possible creative ideas; Quadrant C viewpoint of the “customer” of the problem and how the problem affects others; and Quadrant B step-by-step process to solve the problem and implement the solution.

Improving team interactions and performance

Most teams are formed to make the most of the differences among team members. But very often those differences stand in the way of the team living up to its potential. Whole Brain® Thinking can help a team to acknowledge the differences among team members and then use those differences to make the most of the ideas of each team member. In addition, once a team knows its preferences it can use that knowledge to enhance its communication with other teams and work groups which may have thinking preferences that are quite different.


The objective of most communication is to convey an idea, transfer information or persuade someone. How many times have you experienced the frustration of delivering a message only to realize that the other person “just didn’t get it.” In order to communicate effectively, it’s important to understand the “language” and mindset of the person(s) you are communicating with. A diagnosis of the thinking preferences of the audience can provide the critical planning information you need to tailor your language and presentation to the audience. When the audience’s preferences are in doubt, taking a Whole Brain® approach to communication ensures that you’ve covered all the “languages.” This reduces the possibility of miscommunication and improves the chance that your message will be successfully received by the audience.

This guest post was contributed by Herrmann International Asia.

In addition to the thinking preferences of people, we can also use the Whole Brain® Model to diagnose processes, organizational cultures, vision and value statements, and a host of other systems we engage with on a daily basis. How are you applying Whole Brain® Thinking to get better results?

The Brain and Behavior

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How closely are our biology and our behavior linked?

As we learn more about the brain’s role in decision making, advances in neuroscience are leading some to question the foundations of our criminal justice system.

Neuroscientist David Eagleman examines the topic in a thought-provoking article in Atlantic Magazine, “The Brain on Trial.”

According to Eagleman, “a forward-thinking legal system informed by scientific insights into the brain will enable us to stop treating prison as a one-size-fits-all solution.”

Eagleman’s article is generating a lively discussion on the Atlantic’s website. What’s your take on the subject? Will the legal system have to change “as we become more skilled at specifying how behavior results from the microscopic details of the brain”?