The 4 Regulators Of Motivational Brain Functioning

December 29, 2021
Marcia De Wachter

Our personality relies on 4 regulators

Julius Kuhl's Personality-Systems-Interactions (PSI) theory is highly important in the BrainatTrust analytical framework on motivation. It shows how emotions and personality affect cognition and behavior. No other scholar has been as comprehensive and thorough in integrating all previous motivational theories.

Specifically, the foundation of the PSI theory is that a person uses four cognitive systems to regulate motivation, behavior, and emotion, also called motivation regulators. Each regulator represents a part of our personality, and which of them gets activated depends on the situation.

1. Holistic regulator

Think of it as a Life Library, where all previous experiences of oneself are integrated.

One's memories, values, experiences, needs, and desires are stored here. The holistic regulator, also called the extension memory in psychodynamics, is the only regulator that can integrate conflicting values, experiences, etc, without falling into black-and-white thinking. When this regulator is active we do things out of personal identification, and because they bring meaning, value, and pleasure to us. It is the source of our creativity and inspiration.

Through this regulator, we can generate solutions and advice and adapt to changing circumstances. In this regulator, we can see both the positives and negatives of a situation and integrate this information to create a realistic vision. We can learn from feedback since our personal intelligence has to ability to evaluate what is necessary for our growth and development.

2. Rational regulator

Think of it as an Office, where the planning and rational thinking takes place.

The rational regulator, also called the intention memory in psychodynamics, is in charge of abstract thinking and planning. This is a rational, analytical regulator that lacks flexibility. It operates in terms of linear black-and-white thinking. It is connected to a serious mood, where emotions tend to be put aside.

This detachment from feelings allows moving forward, even during uncomfortable tasks that have no deeper personal meaning. It is the ability to tolerate frustration to invest in planning and understanding complex topics.

3. Intuitive regulator

Think of it as a Hobby Room, where one is enjoying the actions taken in the here-and-now.

The intuitive regulator, also called the intuitive behavioral control in psychodynamics, is dedicated to simple and habitual tasks. Here we easily jump into action and are in the here-and-now. This function is active when we are engaging for example in small-talk, executing routine, or easy and pleasurable activities. This regulator is related to cheerful and energized emotions.

Here we cannot handle complexities, but can do what is easy and already known. It is learning-by-doing.

4. Error sensing regulator

Think of it as a Laboratory, where attention should be paid to all risks, details, and potential pitfalls.

The error sensing regulator, also called the system of object recognition in psychodynamics, relates to focus on details, error detection, meticulous work, precision, and perception of failure. It is like an error detector, scanning the environment for mistakes and what is not working well. Careful and precise are the emotions corresponding to this regulator.

While the holistic regulator makes us feel confident and safe, the error sensing regulator is sensitive to potential problems. It is connected to criticism, but also personal growth and curiosity. It is the basis for learning since we first need to detect what we do not yet know.

Personal preference

Over time, people tend to develop a preference for how to meet their fundamental needs by activating one of these regulators depending on the situation. We can switch rapidly from one function to another in a matter of milliseconds, such that those functions can blend together seamlessly. In other cases, it can be hard to shift into a function that would be more useful in a certain situation.

The PSI Theory clearly highlights growth opportunities, as it is a dynamic system, rather than categorizing people into boxes.

With the BrainDive test, BrainatTrust can assess which motivation regulating system you prefer to use. This valuable insight can give you a lot of information on why you behave the way you do in certain situations.

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