The Primal vs Logical Brain

Have you and your team ever tried to integrate a new service into the practice only to have it go by the wayside after a few weeks?

Well, you aren’t alone…over 80% of new product and service introductions fail! According to Professor Gerald Zaltman, of Harvard University, there is just one reason. “Believe it or not, the reasons for nearly every one of these failures boil down to a common, deceptively simple truth: Too many marketers don’t understand how their own and their consumers’ minds interact.”

In other words, there is a discrepancy between how the doctor or team discusses a service/opportunity vs. how the patient makes decisions.

That’s because virtually all people try to persuade others based upon what is persuasive to themselves. Unfortunately, as a dental professional, you are not representative of your audience. You don’t have the same knowledge base. You don’t have the same priorities. Most importantly, you don’t have the same goals.

There’s also an outdated belief that “big” decisions are made logically, based upon an evaluation of the facts.

This is now an almost universally accepted myth.

Neuroscience has demonstrated that human decisions are made by the primal/emotional parts of our brain, then rationalized by the logical part of our brain.

What really happens during a big decision is that the Primal Brain evaluates perceptions according to its unique criteria, then “communicates” with the Logical Brain via the ARS (Reticular Activating System). The Logical Brain then takes this desire, rationalizes it, and takes credit for making a logical decision.

We perceive that we make logical decisions because we can’t directly communicate with our “Primal Brain” except through our feelings.

It’s important to recognize the relative power associated with these brain components. The best metaphor we at BrilliantDoc have heard is that the Primal Brain is like the elephant and the Logical Brain is like the elephant’s controller, the mahout. As long as the elephant is indifferent, the mahout is in charge. If the Primal Brain is demanding its way, the mahout is just along for the ride.

It’s crucial to understand the emotional drivers for a person’s decision and appeal to those drivers. If you don’t, not only will you not be persuasive, your efforts will be “filtered out” by your audience as irrelevant.

When discussing a treatment plan or finances with a patient, do you ever see a “wall” go up or start to see that dreaded glazed-over look? This just means you haven’t enticed their emotional driver enough for them to accept treatment. This look is an indicator that you need to back up and really find out how this treatment can positively impact their life. Then you can appeal and motivate them toward treatment based on their response.

Professional marketers power their way through this screening filter by using brute force – lots of message exposures. You’ve probably heard it takes 5-12 “touchpoints” to get a person to act. This is one reason why marketing can be so expensive.

How Can I Be More Persuasive?

Beware of The Curse of Knowledge

On a scale of 1 to 10, a doctor’s knowledge is a 10. Often when you “dumb it down” for a patient, you tend to educate at a level 6. Meanwhile, the patient will make decisions at a level 2… maybe 3 if they’ve done research. Fully informed consent is critical, but it does not all have to happen at the initial consultation.

Focus On Empathy

We’ve all heard the quote by Epictetus…”We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Listening can convey empathy and empathy is the foundation of trust. People have a very strong drive to feel understood, and this drive is coupled with a strong feeling that their circumstances are unique. Yet you’ve probably heard similar situations or concerns from hundreds of other patients. Thus, you must be intentional to genuinely listen as it is initially more important to listen & convey empathy than it is to get a patient to understand all the clinical details of a treatment plan.

Provide Social Proof

For most of human history people have accepted instructions from medical practitioners (even before modern medicine existed) because practitioners were the experts. Now, it’s the information age and people question everything. Did you know that 38% of Millenials (ages 24-39 years) say they trust their peers more than their physician?! Additionally, over half (55%) said the information they find online is “as reliable” as their doctor. 😳

Establishing credentials is important but it’s even more crucial to show social proof. Tell stories of other patients with similar goals, how amazing their transformation was and, even more essential, how did the story end…they became more confident, they got the job of their dreams, they got married…

Keep It Simple

Even if everything else is done correctly, when people become confused the entire process collapses. They no longer listen effectively and their default response is avoidance. This can result from the Curse of Knowledge, but it can also stem from information overload. Even if they understood everything clearly, people only want to know what they think they need to know – otherwise, they feel they are wasting their time, energy, and money.


Virtually all people try to persuade others based upon what is persuasive to themselves. Unfortunately, dental professionals are not representative of their audience. They don’t have the same knowledge base. As a practice owner or team member, you must cater to a person’s Primal Brain if you want to catch their attention, draw them in and convert them into a patient. How can you be more persuasive? Beware of The Curse of Knowledge, focus on empathy, provide social proof, & keep it simple!

“Knowledge based on truth, when put into action, is wisdom.”

Bill Buchanan, Co-Founder, BrilliantDoc

The BrilliantDoc Difference

What makes BrilliantDoc different is our proprietary STAR® Decision Model. Our co-founder, Bill Buchanan, discovered that the subconscious isn’t just a ball of emotion like most marketers believe. It actually has a logic of its own! Applying his discovery to his 50+ years of marketing & advertising expertise, he developed the STAR® Decision Model.

The STAR® Decision Model provides a blueprint of how the subconscious makes decisions – which allows BrilliantDoc to develop websites and practice growth programs, as well as marketing recommendations & strategies that are impressively efficient & effective.

Contact BrilliantDoc

Contact BrilliantDoc at (888) 337-6278 or email us at [email protected]

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