Two things that are considered to be intellectual faults are actually great and useful intellectual tools. I’m talking about the capacity to make generalizations and to discriminate.

You make a statement and people say, “That’s a generalization.” And you think, “Of course it is. I’m trying to make a generalization. That’s what smart people do.”

Or you feel that a certain type of person dressed in a certain way is dangerous. And you are told to ignore that feeling because it is “discriminatory.”

That is ludicrous. We discriminate naturally. It is the part of our limbic brain system that helps us make quick and necessary decisions. We generalize because we want to understand our experiences and our instincts. Being able to do this is a function of our neocortical brain.

These are the highest powers of both our rational and also our emotional intelligence.

Discrimination based on generalized assumptions can indeed be harmful. When, for example, the merits of individual people are inhibited by the discriminatory practices of groups that have power.

But it is perfectly rational to make generalizations and discriminations based on observation, so long as you allow for the exceptions and do not impose restrictions upon classes of people that you believe, in general, to have certain undesirable traits.

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Three Brains

We have three brains: the neocortical, the limbic, and the reptilian. As a marketer, it is useful to understand the functions of each.

The reptilian brain is the oldest and simplest of the three. It is responsible for all of our survival instincts, including the “freeze, fight, or flight” response and the sexual impulse. (Any marketing approach that touches on the reptilian brain will evoke a strong reaction.)

The limbic brain is the center of our emotional intelligence. It guides us in a hundred decisions every day — from how far to stand when talking to someone to whether we should buy a new pair of shoes.

The neocortical — the newest part of the brain in terms of evolution — has nothing to do with instincts, emotions, or feelings. It is responsible for logical thinking. It is where we process abstract thoughts, words, and symbols.

Thus, if you appeal to the neocortical with your marketing, don’t expect much. But when selling products related to sex or survival, it stands to reason that you should excite the reptilian brain. And when selling other products, go for the limbic brain.

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