Prism Brain Mapping

286-1Prism Brain Mapping is an online assessment package that promises… Well… it promises all kind of things, from “Enhanced selling skills” to “Developing female leaders” to 360 degree assessments”, whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. It appears to be a pretty big deal, with practitioners all around the world and a certification program for new ‘practitioners’.

So, what is it? It’s basically a re-packaging of some old psychometric tests with a neuroscience-y sounding spin. Or in their words:

“It represents a simple, yet comprehensive, synthesis of research by some of the world’s leading neuroscientists into how the human brain works, and why people, who have similar backgrounds, intelligence, experience, skills, and knowledge, behave in very different ways. The instrument’s graphical representation of the human brain serves, not only to remind people of its biological basis, but also to help demonstrate the equally valuable merits of specific cerebral modes.”

The central idea seems to be to divide the brain up into four colour-coded segments, like so:


…and then produce a matching colour-coded report that divides the responses up into several behavioural domains:


Quite what those four domains have to do with the colour-coded segments of the brain is never really made clear. Of course, this is just another version of the hoary old left/right brain neuromyth. Needless to say, it also has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘brain mapping’ in any even vaguely-meaningful sense.

Prism also provides an exhaustive 42-page ‘Professional report’ (sample version here) that incorporates all kinds of psychometric-type measures, including emotional intelligence, the ‘Big Five‘ personality traits, and ‘Mental toughness’ as well as their custom (i.e. made-up) colour-coded profiles. The whole site is awash with neurobollocks, particularly their “Science behind Prism” page which basically waffles ‘Because: BRAINS!’ for 1500 words.

I got curious about who was behind this. The ideas behind it are utter drivel, but the implementation is actually fairly sophisticated, and they’ve certainly done their homework on the brain stuff. There are no names at all on the site, and that only made me even more curious; however, one of their promotional leaflets mentions something called the Center for Applied Neuroscience. A quick whois look-up on that domain reveals it was registered by someone called Charles De Garston who (from his LinkedIn profile) is the owner of another business named Team Dynamics International. Also heavily involved in Prism is Lisa De Garston, who runs a Prism-related group on LinkedIn.  Neither of these two seem to have any (higher) academic qualifications at all, let alone any in neuroscience or psychology. The only other name I can identify who’s involved is Andrew Sillitoe, who runs a coaching/leadership/consultancy/pointing-out-the-bleedin’-obvious business called Managing the Mist.

So, a good example of an apparently successful business built on a slippery foundation of the most reekingly odious  effluent. I’m pretty much in awe of their audacity to be honest; they’ve spent a great deal of time researching this stuff and coming up with something that’s just plausible enough for an uninformed audience to swallow, and their implementation is highly professional and very slick. I almost feel like cheering them on, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’d get about as much insight into ‘brain mapping’ from holding an actual glass prism up to your ear than from doing these online psychometric tests.

Prism Brain Mapping was previously the subject of a brief post by NeuroSkeptic, which is (of course) worth a read. Also, many thanks to Amy Brann who brought it to my attention on Twitter.

12 responses to “Prism Brain Mapping

  1. Pingback: Prism Brain Mapping | Debunking Brain Myths | S...

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  3. Hi, with regard to your article above. Just to clarify, I do work for PRISM Brain Mapping, however I have no qualification in neuroscience nor do I purport to have. I work at PRISM Brain Mapping as a PA and Office Adminstrator. Charles de Garston is a Director of PRISM Brain Mapping and Team Dynamics International. He is the Commercial Director and therefore involved in the commercial operation of both companies and again makes no claim to have any qualifications in neuroscience.The other Director is Colin Wallace who has a PHd in Neuroscience and has many years of experience in the training industry using a wide variety of psychometric tools before developing PRISM. Andrew Sillitoe is one of PRISM Brain Mapping’s consultants and works for us on a freelance basis. Andrew is a qualified coach and has a Master’s degree in Organisational Psychology.

    A quick phone call to our office (see our website) could have clarified many of these points and we are only too happy to answer any of your questions.

    With thanks
    Lisa de Garston

    • Hi Lisa,

      Many thanks for getting in touch, and for clarifying the roles in Prism – I must have missed Colin’s involvement.

      Don’t think I have any further questions at this point, but I’ll certainly get in touch if necessary – thanks.


  4. Hi all,

    Great article, love the blog. There is a lot of neuro-sceptism out there and rightly so. I have found that PRISM to be a very powerful tool hence my departure from some of the traditional ‘bi-polar’ type questionnaires/psychometrics.

    As for ‘pointing out the bleeding obvious’. Yes that is my goal, strategy and performance improvement is simple and obvious, it doesn’t mean it gets implemented that way! As my hockey would say to me “hockey is a simple game, often complicated by fools” I think same can be said for strategy.

    My aim is to point out the obvious and encourage individuals, teams and organisations not to over complicate it.

    Keep on challenging, that’s what creates the magic!

    All the best

    Andrew Sillitoe

    • Many thanks for the positive message Andrew… Now you’ve been so nice about it I feel really bad for trying to take the piss in the first place! Best of luck with your endeavours!

    • Thanks for commenting, but could you explain what “implementing the obvious in a simple way to improve performance” (a fine goal certainly) has to do with the idea that “Drive” is associated with the back of the left hemisphere of the brain?

      Surely you could improve performance just by working with people and not talking about the brain at all?

  5. Hey Neuroskeptic, agreed, I very rarely talk about the brain and its involvement, often athletes enjoy learning the basics linked to sympathetic and parasympathetic control, i.e. fight flight, as do some leaders and coaches but that’s it.

    Apart from that, coaching in its purest form is plenty. My area is team performance and leadership. I am a strategist and as you say talking about the brain doesn’t need to be mentioned at all.

    I think neuroscience is an interesting field. My perspective is that psychology describes behaviour and neuroscience explains it. If people want an explanation then fine, but i personally don’t use neuroscience as a USP.

    Good chat


  6. On their website homepage you can find a validation study on their theory and tool. Did you have a chance to look into this? I’m quite interested in their claim to see the connection between neuro-chemicals, personality and their assessment. However I have not enough neuroscientific knowledge to review it critically.

  7. Hi, Fascinating exchange here, love the dialog.
    Having been a PRISM practitioner for over 3 years now and coming from an Engineering background in safety systems, where I used PRISM for evaluating the human component in safety systems.
    I would like to make the following comments….

    Knowing very little about neuroscience it has become very apparent to me that the PRISM tool does provide a very simple medium in which to have very deep conversations with people in the workplace (works as a personal improvement tool too) which results in massively improved communications and team interactions and much more besides.

    The fact that you can base the conversations around brain chemicals having such and such an effect on behaviour makes these conversations so so easy, as it is the chemicals you are talking about not the person.

    That brain chemicals affect ones behaviour should really be no real surprise, when you consider the well known estrogen-testosterone or male female differences.

    It is well worth a look at this system, it can alter lives. It certainly altered mine.

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