The Chimp Model

Simplifying Neuroscience

The Chimp Model is an incredibly powerful mind management model that can help you become a happy, confident, healthier, and more successful person.

The Model offers a simplified way of understanding our two thinking brains and how we can learn to use them to the best of our ability. A mind management model is not pure scientific fact or a hypothesis.

It is just a simple representation to aid understanding and help us to use the science. It may also help us to make sense of how we have been in the past, how we are now, and how we can manage ourselves better in the future. In our mind management model, the inner Chimp is the emotional team within the brain that thinks and acts for us without our permission. The logical team is the real person, it is you; rational, compassionate and humane, and is the Human within. The memory banks for reference are the Computer.

The Computer System

The Computer is a reference source for both the Human and Chimp. It stores their beliefs about what is right and important in the world. The Computer also stores memories, providing advice from past experience. Whilst it does not think for itself, the Computer can be programmed to take action in certain circumstances, making it the fastest system in the brain.

Chimp Model Diagram

The Human System

The Human is the conscious thinking system in the brain – it is you. Only you can decide how you would like to be in life and how you would like to live your life. The human’s basis for thinking therefore is facts and logic, which can take time to piece together.

The Chimp System

The Chimp is a primitive system in the brain which you do not control. The Chimp can think for itself and works with drives and instincts for surviving in the jungle. The Chimp’s basis for thinking is its feelings and impressions of the world; it is emotionally driven, impulsive, and quick to react.

The Neuroscience Behind The Chimp Model

If we consider the brain as a machine that can function in different ways, a valid question could be ‘can we develop the ability or skill to manage our brain, and make it work for us in the way that we want it to, all of the time?’ In other words, ‘be the person we want to be, have the emotions we want to have and always act in the way that we want to act?’

To help do this, Professor Steve Peters developed The Chimp Model which consolidates complex neuroscience into an easy-to-understand model.

The diagram shows six specific numbered areas of the brain. Research indicates that each one has a specific role to play and most have much more than one role to play.

Diagram of brain showing different sections.
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The amygdala
(A chief emotional centre in the limbic area or limbic system)

A fast-acting defence mechanism that does not think but responds quickly

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The orbito-frontal cortex
(A smaller area on the outer edge of the frontal lobe)

Acts by trying to control impulses and uses moral judgements to keep us within social norms.

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The uncinate fasciculus
(The pathway joining the amygdala to the orbito-frontal cortex)

Is a moral guide providing us with a conscience and guilt

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The dorso-lateral pre-frontal cortex
(Part of the frontal lobe)

Works analytically, thinking with logic

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The ventro-medial pre-frontal cortex
(This is the area encircling pathway number )

Considers the feelings of others and empathises

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The cingulate cortex
(This is a part of the limbic area)

Is involved in decision-making influenced by past experience

There are two different thinking areas within the brain

It is in the outer edge of the brain, known as the cortex, where thinking takes place and where we put into good use our ‘grey matter’. If the outer edge had just one area for thinking, we wouldn’t have a problem. However, there are at least two thinking and interpreting areas.

The dorso-lateral edge interprets in a rational and logical way. The orbito-frontal cortex interprets by impression, feelings and emotions and has direct links to the amygdala. So, this second way of thinking has ‘joined’ forces with the strongest emotional centre within the brain, the amygdala. What we now have, in effect, are two interpreting brains. One of them is virtually automatic and thinks for us without our input and is based on emotion. The other is under our control and allows us to think, as we want to. The trouble is that these two ’brains’ do not think the same way and they do not typically agree on the interpretation of what is going on. We have a potential ‘battle’ within our head going on all the time!

The Chimp Model is a simplified way of understanding our two thinking brains.

Is there an easy way to make sense of this and to manage the situation to our advantage? The Chimp Model offers a simplified way of understanding our two thinking brains and how we can learn to use them to the best of our ability.  A model is not pure scientific fact or a hypothesis.