Finding Your FACE - Chapter Two

Finding Your FACE - Chapter Two

Chapter 2: The FACE of Personality

The FACE Personality Model is based on the four primary brain functions: Feeling, Access, Consideration, and Excitement – FACE. These are the four brain functions which largely determine how we filter, perceive, process, and evaluate sensory information and ultimately how we respond to that information.

The FACE Personality Model is a detailed look at how a person’s dominant brain functions help determine their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors: essentially, their personality.

This is an important distinction: that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are not random or arbitrary, but are instead the result of understandable and predictable brain functions, and specifically, which of our important brain functions are more dominant than others.

Dominant Brain Functions

What exactly do we mean by “dominant brain functions”? Simply put, dominant brain functions are those functions upon which we tend to rely on a day-to-day basis.

Think of it this way: a person is born with a certain personality. Strike that. Go back even further. A person is conceived with a certain personality. Let’s call this their “genetic” or neurological personality. As they grow in the womb, and especially in the first few years of life, a person’s body and brain are going to develop according to their genetics (nature) and according to their environment (nurture).

Depending on an almost infinite number of factors, this combination of nature and nurture is going to have a profound effect on how that brain develops and which specific brain functions develop faster or stronger than others.

It is these stronger, more dominant brain functions which caught our attention at the Neuro-Linguistic Learning Center, and specifically, the four major brain functions which appear to be the source of much of our personality.

With respect to brain dominance, and specifically Left-Brain vs. Right-Brain Dominance we have to clarify a few things.

There has been much debate about “brain dominance” or “right-brain vs. left-brain”. And this vernacular has absolutely led to confusion. To clear up some of that confusion, we need to go back to the work of Roger W. Sperry.

Sperry was a psychobiologist and a Nobel Prize winner who did some amazing research on the brain back in the 1960’s. What his research revealed was that the two hemispheres of the brain function very differently.

Specifically, he observer that the left brain is more auditory/verbal. It’s better at order and sequence, linear thinking, basic mathematics, organizing by features and characteristics.

Conversely, the right brain is more visual-spatial. It’s more creative and intuitive. The right brain is better at visualization and imagining, big picture thinking, and recognizing patterns and rhythms.

Now given the obvious fact that people have different strengths and weaknesses which correspond to the left brain and right brain functions, a team of neuroscientists set out to see if one hemisphere of the brain actually developed more or faster than the other.

And after conducting MRI’s on over 1,000 people, they found NO EVIDENCE whatsoever that there was any appreciable different in physical development of either hemisphere.

To be clear, physically speaking, there is NO SUCH THING as left-brain or right brain dominance. Structurally, physiologically, your left hemisphere and your right hemisphere are exactly the same.

However, human beings are NOT a one-size-fits-all. If the two hemispheres are structurally identical, how can there be such a wide variety in human behavior and apparent ability?

The reason is NOT in the physical STRUCTURE of the brain, it’s in the USAGE or ACTIVITY going on in the various parts of the brain.

Years after the work of Sperry, Dr. Daniel Amen conducted over 10,000 SPECT scans (Single-photon emission computed tomography) and confirmed that while the hemispheres are physically similar from person to person, the activity within and between the hemispheres can be radically different from person to person.

Dr. Amen’s analysis of brain activity was so detailed, he was able to identify seven (7) distinct types of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

The conclusion here is that for most people the left and the right hemispheres are physically identical. However, the activity within those hemispheres and between those hemispheres can be radically different. And for the purposes of personality and behavior, it is the activity of those brain functions upon which we will focus.

For convenience, we will refer to these four primary brain functions as FACE: Feeling, Access, Consideration, and Excitement. Before we begin a detailed examination of these primary functions, we’re going to take a moment and examine the flow of sensory information and the order in which sensory information is filtered, perceived, and processed.

The following chart illustrates the flow of sensory information: what we see, hear, taste, smell, and touch which is ‘processed’ through a series of brain functions. These important brain functions filter, sort, process and store this information in a way that allows us to make sense of our world.

The results of all this filtering, sorting, processing, and storing, are our thoughts, feelings and behaviors, or what most experts would call our personality.

Note that the flow is circular in that the results of each “event” becomes a source of information for all subsequent events.

 The first step in the flow of sensory information is our Dominant Feeling. How we feel provides the context or filter through which we will perceive and process this information.

The second step in the flow of sensory information is our Dominant Access. How we access sensory information is critical to our overall perception, organization, and storage of information.

The third step in the flow of sensory information is our Dominant Consideration. This dominant brain function determines how we evaluate information and how we make decisions.

The fourth step in the flow of sensory information is our Dominant Excitement. Our level of excitement determines how we respond neurologically to sensory information.

The results of this process are the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors which make up our personality.

Our focus will be on four fundamental brain functions: Feeling, Access, Consideration, and Excitement that largely determine how we perceive our world, how we process that sensory information, and, ultimately, how we respond or react to a given situation (feedback).

Dominant Feeling

In our FACE Personality Model, the first dominant brain function is, Feeling. This function has two possible states or traits: sympathetic dominant and parasympathetic dominant.  

Sympathetic dominant people tend to be more alert to their surroundings. As a group, they’re more active and physically fit. However, if their stress and anxiety get the better of them, they can become very overweight.

Sympathetic dominant people are more reactive and can be either hyper-alert to their surroundings or hyper-focused and virtually oblivious to whatever is going on around them.

Sympathetic dominance is a personality trait that often bears closer inspection. The issue is that sympathetic dominance can be the result of either neurology or trauma.

If it is part of your neurology, you may find yourself struggling with one or more symptoms of ADHD, OCD, or autism. If it is the result of past events or trauma, you may want to consider some form of counseling, possibly for childhood trauma or PTSD.

As we will discuss at length, sympathetic dominant people may struggle with relationships, impulsivity, sleep, addiction and/or alcoholism.

Conversely, those who are parasympathetic dominant are generally more relaxed and less stressed than those who are sympathetic dominant.

Parasympathetic dominant persons tend to be more focused and more comfortable sitting for long periods of time. They’re more thoughtful and, unless excited or stressed, are generally more responsive rather than reactive. 

Dominant Access

In our FACE Personality Model, the second dominant brain function is Access. This function has two possible states or traits: Visual or visual-spatial and auditory or auditory-Verbal.

Visually dominant people are generally highly intelligent, creative, inventive, non-linear, outside-the-box thinkers. The visually dominant are often musical and/or artistic and tend to organize information by patterns and associations rather than characteristics and features.

Some visually dominant people may struggle with organization, completing projects, and maintaining even a simple schedule. Those who are extremely sympathetic dominant and visually dominant may struggle with one or more symptoms of dyslexia, ADHD, and/or autism.

Conversely, Auditory Dominant people process information sequentially, are generally highly organized and tend to start what they finish. They are generally good listeners and storytellers and often have a good sense of order and sequence and enjoy being on time.

Dominant Consideration

The third dominant brain function in the FACE Personality Model is Consideration. This function has two possible states or traits: logically dominant and emotionally dominant.

People who are logically dominant are more likely to evaluate information and make decisions based on logic and reason and for them, rational thinking comes naturally.

Logically dominant persons are typically comfortable taking the opposite view and may be prone to argue. They may tend to dissociate from their emotions and may struggle with intimacy and a lack of empathy.

Conversely, persons who are emotionally dominant will tend to base their decisions on emotions and feelings. Emotionally dominant people will naturally associate into their emotions and have a strong sense of empathy for others. They can make friends easily and naturally enter rapport with others.

Dominant Excitement 

The fourth dominant brain function in the FACE Personality Model is, Excitement. This function has two possible states or traits: dominant under-stimulated and dominant over-stimulated.

Dominant under-stimulated people are stimulation-seekers. They enjoy action and excitement and may be easily bored. Dominant under-stimulated are generally extrovert, enjoying loud parties and large events.

Conversely, dominant over-stimulated people are typically stimulation avoiders. These persons can be easily over-stimulated and may avoid loud parties and large events. Those who are dominant over-stimulated are often introverts and may be naturally shy.

Personality Traits are Dominant--Not Exclusive

It is vitally important to remember that these personality traits and functions are not exclusive; they are each dominant trait and only with respect to their counterpart:

  • Sympathetic vs. Parasympathetic
  • Visual vs. Auditory
  • Logical vs. Emotional, and
  • Under-Stimulated Over-Stimulated.

We might think of these dominant brain functions as the first-string players on a sports team: these are the players that play most of the game. Each player has a backup or substitute sitting on the sidelines waiting to step in if the need arises. But it is the first-string players who tend to “dominate” the game.


  • Tags: adhd, anger, anxiety, ASD, autism, brain, brain dominance, brain hemisphere, emotions, Meyers-Briggs, neurodiversity, Parasympathetic Nervous System, psychology, Sympathetic Nervous System

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