Q. I heard you give a brain definition of generation gap some time ago that made a lot of sense. Please repeat it.

A. PET Scan studies have shown that below age 21, there is a tendency for the individual to go directly to the emotional brain layer (no conscious thought) when attempting to answer questions or problem-solve. Over age 21, the tendency is to access functions of the thinking brain layer (conscious thought).

The term generation gap may simply refer, at least in part, to miscommunication between individuals, some above age 21 and others below, each trying to communicate by using an entirely different portion of the brain. Avoid using the wordwhy in communication, if at all possible. That word can typically be perceived as stressful or threatening (e.g., could trigger downshifting of the person’s brain). Use other words to elicit information or trigger discussion. Try instead:

  • What did you want to have happen in this situation?
  • When you made this choice what did you think might happen?
  • What could you do differently in the future to achieve a more desirable outcome?


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