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Crocodile Brain

In Pitch Anything, Oren Klaff stresses going after the “crocodile brain.” Allegedly, the three basic parts of the brain are the neocortex, mid-brain, and crocodile brain.

Proponents of this croc brain idea (or at least the ones I’ve come across) hold an evolutionary presupposition that this is how the brain evolved. The croc brain being the original brain of our earliest ancestors, the mid-brain forming next, and then the neocortex (which is highly involved in rational thinking).

I don’t hold the same presuppositions. I actually think you could use the basic traditional Christian understanding of the soul and come to some of the same conclusions about how the mind works. Klaff makes the point that the three parts of the brain work independently and together. That is, they are distinct but can’t be fully separated. This is how Jonathan Edwards viewed the soul. He presupposed and argued that the soul consisted of the mind, the will, and the affections. These three work independently and together. They are distinct but can’t be separated.

I make that point simply because Klaff’s main point is that when you’re pitching an idea, you should go for the croc brain as much as possible. I think you could just as easily say, “Go for the emotions or affections first” and get the same result. I’ve come to accept the idea that we rarely make decisions with reason/rationality first. It’s more likely that we make decisions based on our gut/emotions and then use our rationality to make arguments after the fact that we made the right decision.

Klaff’s simple description of how the croc brain operates is as follows. The crocodile brain is concerned primarily with boredom, danger, and complication. The croc brain says, If the idea is boring, ignore it. If it’s dangerous, fight or run. If it’s complicated, radically summarize it (p. 14).

If you’re going to make a pitch or presentation (or even preach a sermon) with this in mind, you need to remember the main points:

  1. People are going to ignore you if possible
  2. They’re mainly worried about the big picture rather than intricacies
  3. They will respond emotionally first, especially is something scares them
  4. They’re worried about the here and now with a short attention span that craves novelty
  5. They want concrete facts rather than abstract concepts (p. 16)

We want to use the intellectual mind to pitch and preach things with a lot of details and abstract concepts. But people will primarily pay attention to things that touch their emotions, deal with their fears, offer some type of novelty, and are more concrete/image-based than abstract.

While I don’t believe there’s really such a thing as a croc brain or a lizard brain (I’ve heard that term used of the same concept), I do know that Jesus, when he described the kingdom of heaven, didn’t give a theological treatise. Instead, he said things like, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field.” So often he went straight to emotionally-loaded imagery and narrative rather than giving logical syllogisms.

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