Foundational Pre-Human Minds Psychology

Understanding the Pre-Human Minds: Working In the Hanford Nuclear Complex & Recovering From Trauma

The quadrune mind model of consciousness states that the human brain can support not one, but four distinctly different minds. Three of these minds are associated with parts of our brain that we share with our evolutionary ancestors: reptiles, herd mammals, and primate mammals. The fourth mind in this model, associated with the newest part of our brain—the prefrontal cortex—seems to belong only to us, and it is the one that supports our uniquely human capacity to have a sense of responsibility to, and communion with, people never met, all living beings, and the earth. However, it takes a very healthy brain to live a very Human life.

Because of afflictions to our brain, most of us exist at a pre-Human level of consciousness. For more information on our four minds and afflictions to them, see pages 5-10 of the Study Guide. The three pre-Human minds described by the quadrune mind model explain why people do all of the things they do, good and bad, which would otherwise be inexplicable, or require fanciful metaphysical interventions. Understanding these minds also provides a better causal explanation of our behaviors, emotions, and thoughts than do more complicated sociological and psychological theories.

Because the quadrune mind model is designed to be an applicable model of actual human behavior, emotions, and thoughts, we often see it in real life stories of human conduct. This blog will consider two such examples that were not intentionally written to fit into the quadrune mind model but do nonetheless because of the model’s ability to accurately explain all types of people. In particular, we often see examples of the three pre-Human minds in the world. (As mentioned, far fewer stories are told of Human-minded people because afflictions to the brain lead to fewer people living predominately from their Human mind.)

How Our Pre-Human Minds Explain Otherwise Inexplicable Behaviors

In his book Soul of a Citizen, Paul Rogat Loeb inadvertently provides a succinct example of all three pre-Human mentalities in his study of how people could work at a nuclear complex, without moral ambivalence, that produced plutonium for atomic bombs. 

Loeb says he has significant moral issues with the nuclear work done by Washington State’s Hanford nuclear complex, which produced the plutonium used in the bomb detonated over Nagasaki, Japan. There are additional moral issues that remain unacknowledged by the DOE even though the site may be harming a number of people. For example, Hanford released, sometimes deliberately, radioactive gases into the atmosphere. The radioactivity may be linked with cases of cancer and other health problems for people in communities hundreds of miles downwind. Furthermore, Hanford leached hundreds of thousands of gallons of radioactive liquids into the ground with unknown long-term environmental consequences. However, Loeb states that the first-generation of workers—during the 1940s to the 1970s—avoided moral concerns and were proud of their work. The quadrune mind model explains how they were able to do it.

Reptilian Mind. Some of the workers immersed themselves completely into the job at hand. They deferred any issues of morality to higher authorities. An unquestioning acceptance of orders from “above,” which represents a mental acceptance of a rigid hierarchy of power, is considered a trait of the reptilian mind. The workers’ behavior was an end unto itself, unencumbered by any and all concerns regarding the consequences of that behavior. The reptilian-minded worker goes to work each day, does his job over and over, and goes home. No thought is given to how the work affects other people, the environment, or future generations. Such a mentality is captured by workers’ comments, such as, “My job was to make the machines work” and “I could just as easily have been working in a coal plant….[o]r making lightbulbs [emphasis added].”

Old Mammalian Mind. Other workers were joined together in an emotional bond of team spirit, which is primarily an old mammalian-minded characteristic. An indication of the complete mental disconnection between the horrific devastation of nuclear bombing our fellow human beings and the workers’ level of consciousness is how this “team spirit” was shared by the larger community. The high school football team was called the Richland Bombers (Go Bombers!) and the school’s logo was a miniature mushroom cloud, which was displayed on “helmets, pep club banners, and school commencement programs.” The consciousness of the community was limited to the concerns of their own herd, only.

New Mammalian Mind. The new mammalian-like mind is dedicated to abstract thought, as indicated by Loeb’s report of some workers’ “pride in the ethic of invention.” Their mind-set of that time was a belief in “technical progress” as an ideological value worth working for. It was a belief that the inventiveness of the reasoning human mind could, and would, inexorably lead to a better world without the need for further review. In other words, dedication to scientific progress is always “right” because science itself is the thing—the effect of that science on living beings doesn’t play into the equation. 

Human Mind. As far as I can tell, the Human mind is not represented in Loeb’s account of the thinking done by Hanford’s workers. It seems unlikely to me that a fully conscious (spiritual) Human would work in a nuclear weapons program. They have other, more desirable purposes in life, the goals of which are much more difficult to accomplish. 

How Afflictions To the Brain Affect Our Four Minds

One of the central points made by the quadrune mind model of human consciousness is that ongoing afflictions, or intense traumatic events, can regress a person’s level of mental functioning from a “higher” state of consciousness to one that occurs developmentally earlier or, more commonly, prevent us from moving through our minds to higher levels of consciousness in the first place. Psychologist Philip Zimbardo1 and his co-authors unintentionally described the quadrune mind’s pre-Human mentalities as phases of psychological recovery to a disastrous trauma. (See pages 7 and 10 of the Study Guide for an overview of the quadrune mind model’s perspective of healthy levels of mental functioning, and some suggested responses for healing.2)

Pre-reptilian “mind.” A newborn’s essential survival behavior is directed by reflexes; i.e., involuntary movements or actions. Reflexes develop during gestation and some reflexes may be present at 12 months of age. In the quadrune mind model, this stage of development is called a “somatic” mentality. It’s not considered a full-fledged mentality by the model, because these behaviors are generated spontaneously during the newborn’s normal behavior or by specific external stimulation, rather than the intentionality of a “mind.” In Zimbardo’s first of five phases of psychological responses to trauma, the person experiences “shock, confusion, and even psychic numbness [emphasis in the original].” The person does not have enough mental organization to support the understanding of what has happened, or to act intentionally.

Reptilian Mind. Zimbardo calls the next phase automatic action. This is a period of time when the person’s behavior is carried out mechanically with little self-awareness. Because the mind’s more consciously “self-aware” activities of the cerebral cortex are sort of short-circuited, the person has little memory of their actions during this phase. This mentality is analogous to the quadrune mind model’s reptilian mind’s dominance, which corresponds to the normal mental development of an infant/young child from a few months to about 18 months old. We often say that adults in this stage following a traumatic event are just “going through the motions.” As we might see in a reptile’s behavior, routine and habit take over, and no thought is given as to why one is doing or saying certain things.

Old Mammalian Mind. The third phase of mental recovery involves a grand sense of communal effort. It is from this stage that “feel good” stories appear in the media of “neighbors” coming together to comfort and aid each other. There is a general emotional sense of bonding among the people victimized by the disaster. This time of cooperation often does make a life-and-death difference, and some real life-long changes can occur among people who have shared a disaster. However, the next phase indicates that permanent mental/spiritual growth may not typically occur.

New Mammalian Mind. The fourth phase is described as an experience of a letdown. The initial crisis-response energy is spent. People have enough mental recovery to be able to understand, and feel, the full impact of what they have experienced and what the foreseeable future has in store for them. People feel abandoned and forgotten by the world. The new mammalian mind is now able to recognize a future that they will not share with those people who weren’t there.

Human Mind. Zimbardo describes this last phase as an extended period of recovery. People “adapt to the changes brought about by the disaster.” This “adaptation” may represent full recovery to Zimbardo and other mental health professionals, but it usually falls far short of the Human consciousness goals of the quadrune mind model. In the sociological, cultural, and psychological approach, “getting back to normal” probably means returning to whatever level of consciousness we had before the disaster occurred. Getting on with our life as it was. For most of us, we were not consistently living out of our fully conscious, spiritual mind before the crisis, and we aren’t going to be after the crisis, either. Spiritual consciousness is a hardy preventative to mental decompensation during a disaster, but it is not likely a consequence of one. 


Loeb, P. R. (1999). Soul of a citizen: Living with conviction in a cynical time (pp. 80-81). New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.

Zimbardo, P. G., Weber, A. L., & Johnson, R. L. (2005). Psychology: Core concepts (2nd custom ed. for the University of Central Oklahoma, p. 383; taken from Psychology: Core concepts, 4th ed., 2003, Zimbardo, P. G., et al.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

  1. The famous Stanford Prison Experiment conducted by Zimbardo has come under criticism, but that does not impugn this material as useful for our purposes here.
  2. The suggested ways to help heal the regressed states of consciousness are presented only for educational or informational purposes to illustrate the philosophy of the quadrune mind model of consciousness, and should not be used in the place of appropriate professional care for mental health disorders.