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Limbic types and personas

Limbic Types is a valid target group model that assigns consumers to a specific personality structure via main emotional fields. How exactly this works and what it has to do with personas.


Homo economicus", as described at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, "... puts utility first in all life relationships. Everything becomes for him the means of maintaining life, the natural struggle for existence and the pleasant organization of life." (Eduard Spranger, 1914).
Over the course of time, poor homo economicus has had to listen to a lot of criticism, including that he is a purely male model for privileged classes, that he is selfish and does not take into account actual, irrational behavior caused by emotions, framing or the default effect, and that he is generally a very unemotional contemporary.

This contrasts with the "Limbic Types" model developed by Dr. Hans-Georg Häusel in the 1990s.

Limbic Types - Modernization towards reality

This model assumes that emotions play an important role in all our decisions, so that a seemingly "irrational" decision can feel like the better choice. Furthermore, the limbic type model assumes the supremacy of the unconscious. Findings from brain research confirm this.

The focus is on a person's individual personality and their emotions at the time of decision-making. We all make gut decisions. Or those that cannot be explained by pure reason. This is precisely why the limbic type approach is so interesting for marketing and recruiting.

Humans have three essential, vital needs that form the basis of the well-known pyramid of needs: Food, sleep, reproduction. These are accompanied by three core emotional systems: Balance, Dominance and Stimulus. Together they determine our thoughts and actions. Each of the core emotion systems has further sub-modules, such as attachment or care within balance. We all have all three emotion systems, but not to the same degree. The individual characteristics of the emotion systems and their submodules determine our preferences and therefore our actions. The limbic system is the area of the brain responsible for this, hence the name of the model.

Order is a must

Every customer and every candidate therefore has individual preferences and motivations for buying or not buying a product or accepting or rejecting a job. Unfortunately, so much complexity is not practical: in order to address customers and candidates efficiently, we need to be able to segment them. Fortunately, people unconsciously have a tendency in one direction or another, towards one emotional focus or another, and can be easily categorized based on this. Research has identified seven "limbic personality types":

  • Traditionalists attach importance to the emotional fields of "tradition" and "security". Of the three core emotion systems, balance is the most pronounced for them. In combination with the stress hormone cortisol, this characteristic leads to them clinging to habits and being attached to the familiar, just like order. They do not value luxury.
  • Hamonisers also have a strong balance emotion system, with a focus on the caring and bonding sub-modules, which are strongly linked to the release of the bonding hormone oxytocin. Family and security are very important to them and they often behave altruistically. This is also reflected in their working life, as they often take up caring professions or are interested in good relationships at other workplaces.
  • Open-minded people have an optimistic attitude to life, want to feel good and enjoy life. Their emotional system of dominance is only weakly developed; they oscillate between stimulation and balance. Status is therefore not important to them, but a relaxed, modern life is. On the job market, open-minded people are not attracted by career opportunities, but they are attracted by a good work-life balance.
  • Hedonists strive for maximum pleasure. Their strongest emotional system is stimulation; they look for anything that promises a dopamine boost. Hedonists are creative, set trends and like to consume, but place little value on quality or sustainability.
  • Adventurers are not afraid to take risks and do not strive to conform to society and its conventions. They love their freedom and autonomy and can be impulsive or even rebellious. They buy products that radiate this attitude to life and are hardly suitable for routine jobs or conservative companies with fixed hierarchies and working hours.
  • Performers lie on the "Limbic Map" (see below) in the area of the emotional system of dominance, which is associated with a high testosterone level. This group therefore has a particularly high proportion of men. Success and status are desirable for performers. They are therefore characterized by a will to lead and a high level of motivation and like to reward themselves with status symbols and prestigious products. Performers are determined and do not give up easily.
  • Disciplined are every marketer's nightmare, because they are very frugal and disciplined by nature and (almost) only buy what they really need. Fun articles and fast food are advertised to them in vain; they tend to buy long-lasting products with practical benefits.
    Disciplined people are located on the "Limbic Map" between balance and dominance, stimulation is only weakly pronounced. They do their work neatly and with precision and are therefore well suited to jobs where a structured approach, order, overview and rationality are required.

So why personas?

If customers or candidates can be divided into categories in such a wonderful way, then this division is a perfect marketing or recruiting tool: tailor advertising or job advertisements to the desired group and enjoy the results. Hedonists, however, would then probably remain without a job and Harmonizers would never become bosses. As always, real life is more complex than any model, no matter how good, as anyone who has ever taken a personality test knows. The result is usually something like: "You are 53% Dominant, 60% Stimulating and 86% Balanced." So a man can certainly be a traditionalist in need of harmony who asserts himself where necessary and also likes to do something crazy from time to time.
Poor marketers and HR people!

What's more, age and gender play an important role in emotional personality: who doesn't know that guy in his 20s who thinks he's immortal, likes to take risks and overestimates himself to no end? Who then arrives 40 years later with significantly lower testosterone levels and shops as if he were a different person? In fact, the dominance hormone testosterone and the neurotransmitter dopamine decrease with age. As a result, people tend to develop from risk-taking to safety-conscious and from assertive to harmonious, becoming more domesticated and less curious, albeit to varying degrees. As a result, they also aspire to other jobs and prefer other products. The biological sex also plays a role: more testosterone leads to more dominance and stimulation and more oestrogen and oxytocin to more balance and interest in caring.

Within a limbic type group, there can therefore be very different interests and characteristics depending on age and gender. Or, and this is even more likely, many people cannot be assigned exactly to one group. The limbic types are a good way to carry out an initial segmentation and get a first idea of the preferences, interests and emotions of the desired customers or candidates and to determine a rough initial direction for marketing or recruiting. But if you want to target EXACTLY THE RIGHT people for a product or job, on EXACTLY THE RIGHT channels, you need a more precise approach. data-driven personas can do this: they represent real people, and just like them, they have a tendency towards one limbic type or another, but just like us, they are much more complex than a "type". They give us insights into age-related preferences, type-related habits, family-related needs and much more. With data-based personas, you go far beyond a type and get very close to reality - with someone who is not a real person, but COULD be one and is based on thousands of real people.

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