The Architecture of the Conscious Brain

The Architecture of Conscious Brain


“I think, therefore I am”
René Descartes affirms in his inarguably influential work Discourse on the Method in 1637. One of the most distinguished phrases of all time that continues to stir questions and debates today.

When Descartes received a letter from the daughter of a king of England and Scotland during the 17th century, the mind-body problem—the relationship between the mental realm and the physical realm—surfaced, though it was Socrates who posed the problem earlier in 399 B.C.

Why do we have this unique propensity to raise ours hand to respond to questions? Why do we feel agonizing pain when we stub your toe against the corner of our beds in the dark? What is the relationship of our thoughts, feelings, sensations, pains, emotions to atoms, neurons, and matter?

Whether human consciousness interacts with the brain or not is one loaded question that different theories try so hard to explain. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do. But effortlessly.

There are two types of relationships that exist between the brain and our mental lives. There’s dualism, a system that states that the mind and brain are separate entities that interact with one another (like the church and the state). In contrast, there’s monism, wherein the mind and brain are the same entity. Same entity. Wait, what does this mean? Let me explain.

For every experience whether past or future, there is a constellation of neural activity that translates to this experience. So in a very real sense:

Mental experience is neural activity.
Neural activity is mental experience.

How do these constellations connect in the first place? Let’s take a look under the hood with an analogy in mind: the architecture of the conscious brain.

Let’s say that our minds is the architect and the many functional layers and regions of our brain are what the architect needs to design.

For an architect to design a new house, she needs to map out every single space in order to give it its own assignments. This is called the site plan. To map out the area in its entirety, she would require herself to view the area, learn about the property, and organize her stored knowledge about the space and find a way to communicate her expertise. In neuroscience, this is the main function of the temporal lobe. It specializes on visual processing, semantic organization of knowledge that enables us to learn and pick up on languages.

After getting a feel of the space and property, the architect must now design the house. This process consists of visualizing the blueprint either through hand drawings or a design software. It’s crucial for the architect to visualize all the physical properties that must be built and planned for such as walls, windows, doors, stairways, etc. Cognitively, the visual cortex is responsible for all these tasks.

Now, onto the outdoor patio design. To construct this successfully, the architect must have a deep understanding of the environment and sense of awareness on how much space must be considered for this patio. With this understanding comes the consideration of all sensory aspects. The part of the brain that specializes in sensory processing and spatial awareness is the parietal lobe.

To move on to construction, the architect must now plan and go through every final decision and coordinate with engineers. This requires major planning, thinking, and analyzing, which the frontal lobe is responsible for. All forms of decisions, forecasting, and reasoning are come from this region of the brain.

The mind—like all houses—has its own foundation and architecture that is designed to do a specific task and produce specific outcomes in forms of vision, memory recall, speech, reasoning, and many more. The brain works one-on-one with the mind to create a conscious activity, triggering specialized regions of the brain to do its job.

The notion that each region of the brain performs different function has existed for many centuries, but has only been leveraged in marketing much, much later. The science behind brain functions produce eye-opening results that are just so essential for marketing.

The question is no longer ‘how can we convince potential customers to buy our products?’ but rather ‘how can we create a human connection between the brain and the brand?’ the same way (neuro)marketers don’t say ‘we need to tap into our consumers’ hippocampus [memory] and  amygdala [emotional core]but rather speak in simple semantics ‘our XYZ campaign must spark our customers’ sense of touch and smell, and push for emotional drivers such as validating their core beliefs, creating newfound memories, and giving them a strong sense of tribe and social belonging.’

Understanding how the brain works and what makes humans tick is an evermore important function in marketing. 15Center urges that every campaign must derive from neuro insights to drive positive results and understand customers better. Here’s a short primer on how big boy companies employs neuromarketing through neuroimaging techniques.

Let’s take for example a marketing campaign for paper towels. The packaging of the product features an adorable labrador dog fiddling with the paper towels, and the slogan reads Even your Best Friend loves it! on the left. When you’re a notable, multi-billion dollar FMCG company, neuromarketing is almost a no-brainer. The three ways companies can acquire neuromarketing data are through the following scientific methods:

  • Eye Tracking: With the eye tracking technique, marketers are able to understand where, when and in what order people look and browse for your products online. In the paper towel example, companies may ask, are customers gazing at the cute labrador? Is it the first thing that catches their attention? Imagine how insightful and powerful this information would be for the FMCG industry.

  • Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI): Using the fMRI, marketers can harness the range of neural activities coming from the brain to understand customer behavior towards marketing strategies. Functional MRI can provide insights on product design that would suit the customers’ preferences.

  • Electroencaphalogram (EEG): With the EEG it’s possible to measure the brain electrical activity and understand the emotion impact that marketing has on customers. Taking for example the same campaign it is possible to understand how customers respond to the image of the puppy playing by measuring the electrical signals of the brain. Is it engagement, happiness, love, indifference, short or long term? All this experiences that may arise unconsciously to the customers can be measured and be a great asset to design the perfect marketing strategy.  

With a deeper understanding of the brain’s architecture and its multi-faceted function and your existing deep expertise in marketing and strategy, neuromarketing can be a gamechanger.

Inspired by René Descartes influential phrase “I think, therefore I am,” neuromarketers must fill in the blanks to “customers think, therefore are...” to uncover the best ways to engage and win customers’ mindspace.

Feed Your Brain

15Center founders Matt Johnson, PhD and Prince Ghuman are co-authors of Allure: The Neuroscience of Consumerism. To get early access, sign up here.

Together, they teach individuals and businesses how to ethically apply neuroscience to marketing via neuromarketing bootcamps to uncover consumer blind spots and help brands better engage with their customers. Get your ticket here.