Brain Typing is a system developed by Jonathan P. Niednagel that applies elements from neuroscience, physiology, and psychology to estimate athletic ability. It is based on the psychological typology of Carl Jung and the later work of Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers. Currently, no controlled experiments have been done to assess the effectiveness of brain typing (though there are anecdotal reports of both successes and failures), and as a result the American Psychological Association considers brain typing a pseudoscience.
What separates brain typing from Jungian typology (and its offshoots such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Socionics) is its emphasis on mental and motor skills. Each of the sixteen brain types is said to specialize in certain regions of the brain responsible for varying degrees of mental and motor skills. Niednagel believes types are inherited, possessing a genetic basis.
Niednagel started to develop brain typing in the late 1970s and 1980s while coaching youth soccer, basketball, and Little League baseball. He observed that children with similar personalities also had similar motor skills. After several decades of study, Niednagel began to receive more attention for his work in the 1990s, particularly in the arena of professional sports. Perhaps the most well-known event related to brain typing was Niednagel's prediction in 1998 that Peyton Manning would become a star quarterback in the National Football League (NFL), and that the similarly hyped Ryan Leaf would perform poorly in the league. His prediction came true as Peyton Manning has become one of football's best quarterbacks while Ryan Leaf is remembered as one of the worst busts in football draft history. Not all of Niednagel's predictions have been as clear cut, as he is careful to qualify his projections. His success rate has gained him a following, and allowed him to apply his work in professional sports for nearly 20 years (at the time of this writing, summer of 2009). Despite the effort and study that Niednagel has put into brain types, it has yet to be validated via scientific journals or publications. It is significant to note that he has conducted and continues to engage in genetic testing with private biotech companies in the search for irrefutable validation on a genetic level. It is also uncertain how much application brain types has beyond the realm of sports, since the primary difference between brain typing and related typologies is the motor skill emphasis.
Brain Types and Motor Skills
Niednagel divides the types into four basic motor skill groupings using his own terminology (originally derived from Jung/Myers) which he believes is more precise: EA, EI, CA, and CI. EA, or 'Empirical-Animate' types (FEAL, FEAR, BEAL, BEAR), are said to excel in the region of the brain responsible for gross motor skills. EI, or 'Empirical-Inanimate' types (FEIL, FEIR, BEIL, BEIR). Brain Type BEIR are thought to possess the best fine motor skills of the four groups. CA, or 'Conceptual-Animate' types (FCAL, FCAR, BCAL, BCAR), excel in the auditory cortex, which is responsible for various hearing and language skills. CI, or 'Conceptual-Inanimate' types (FCIL, FCIR, BCIL, BCIR), are believed to excel in the cerebral cortex, where abstract levels of reasoning occur.
Commercialization and criticism
Educational society and members of American Psychological Association criticize brain types as not valid and built for commercial purposes only. Mr. Niednagel, a lay-scientist of 30 years, with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Finance from California State University, Long Beach, says his method is the most accurate (in applying the Jungian/Myers model) and verifiable. Another post boasts of a 100% accuracy rate in assessing and localizing brain functioning on the basis of "eyeballing" and then analyzing body language, posture, motor activity, and speech. Dr. Sandbek, primary contact of the Sacramento Skeptics Society, in his publication Brain Typing: The Pseudoscience of Cold Reading criticized the validity of brain types and claimed "how closely the Brain Typing of Jonathan P. Niednagel fits as a pseudoscience".
- Sandbek, T., Brain Typing: The Pseudoscience of Cold Reading
- ESPN, Outside the Lines, Episode 121 (interview transcript).
- The University of Georgia mailing list
- Martin Spieler et al., "Predicting Athletic Success: Factors Contributing to the Success of NCAA Division I AA Collegiate Football Players", The Online Journal of Sports Psychology, 2007.
- Niednagel, Jonathan P. (2002); Your Key to Sports Success. Laguna Niguel: Laguna Press, 2002; 7th edition
- The Brain Type Institute - official site