I've come across 'The Chimp Model' that sports psychologist Steve Peters advocates for understanding human motivations. While this seems intuitive does it have much credibility in neuroscience? If there's any non-specialist papers I'd be interested.



  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Can you summarize here what its main ideas are? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 23:23
  • $\begingroup$ Are you specifically interested in neuroscience, or also experimental psychology? $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 21:40

1 Answer 1


(This isn't a complete answer, as I'm not in a position to comment on the neuroscience, but it should provide some useful background for anyone else who is interested in Peters' work.)

While The Chimp Model is based on psychology, is not intended to be an accurate nor detailed representation of the science. Rather, it is a conceptual framework that can be used to help people think about and change their behaviour. It provides a metaphor that can help coaches and individuals who want to know a bit more about the way their minds work, and enable them to make changes based on what they have learned. The idea is that it will help people use the science, but is not the science itself.

(Compare this to the idea that atoms are little coloured balls: that isn't an accurate representation of modern physics, but it is a useful way to think about many of the properties of matter in many practical situations)

The model divides the mind into three parts.

  1. The Chimp. According to the model, this is an independent part of your mind that is not under your control. It works with feelings and impressions, and makes deductions using "emotional thinking".
  2. The Human. This is the conscious, thinking, analytical part of your mind that operates on facts and can make logical deductions.
  3. The Computer. This is the part of your mind that stores memories, skills and habits. It can do a certain amount of "automatic" thinking.

Peters' ideas are related to the ideas espoused by Daniel Kahneman in his book, "Thinking, Fast and Slow". In this book Kahneman posits that there are two systems at work in the human mind:

  1. System 1, which is fast, instinctive and emotional. This system can perform
  2. System 2, which is slower, more deliberative, and more logical

Kahneman's work is much closer to "proper" (i.e. academic) psychology than that of Peters, whose motivation is practical rather than scientific.

Both Peters and Kahneman are proponents of a school of thought known as "dual process theory".

  • $\begingroup$ Is this model inspired by the Buddhist concept of the "mind monkey"; an image for the observation that the mind is very unsteady and jumps around when it is not tamed? $\endgroup$
    – uUnwY
    Commented Nov 27, 2020 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ Sounds very similar to Freud's Id, Ego and Super-Ego $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 28, 2020 at 11:58
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the info! I like Kahneman's book too. $\endgroup$
    – Pigeon
    Commented Feb 9, 2021 at 17:03

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