Brain-Centredness and Occular-Centredness in Risk
Such a small amount of what we ‘see’ is processed through the eyes and brain indeed, this amounts to less than 5% of all ways in which we sense the world and make decisions. The idea that humans make decisions like a computer is completely erroneous. Such a metaphor distorts and misdirects where we should focus out attention. When it comes to perception, vision and knowledge we need to think much more holistically about why people do what they do. Most of the neurons from our eyes don’t connect to the brain anyway.
All human senses work together in an integrated way and any reductive study of one sense alone (or above another) takes meaning and purpose away from another sense. Scientists believe we have more than 40 senses. This is why an embodied approach to cognition, perception and vision ought to be holistic not just centred on the eyes and brain.
If this is the case then think about your current approach to how you tackle risk indeed, how you approach learning. Unfortunately, much of what happens in the induction process in industry around risk is fixated on this eyes-brain focus which is why much of it doesn’t work. The same goes with incident investigations, informed by biases from Behaviourism (https://safetyrisk.net/kicking-the-behaviourism-habit/) and Positivism (https://safetyrisk.net/the-paradox-of-positivism-for-safety/ ). Such approaches to investigations get the outcome they assume but are not an investigation rather, more a confirmation of the assumptions of the philosophy that drives the method.
In my latest book I explore many ways of knowing and decision making that don’t involve the eyes or brain: https://www.humandymensions.com/product/envisioning-risk-seeing-vision-and-meaning-in-risk/
When we talk about perception, vision, seeing and knowing we need to get away from this paradigm of Brain-Centredness and Occular-Centredness.
Current research in Embodied Cognition provides great guidance and how we might review current approaches to risk and reframe the challenge. Current approaches to rationality and decision making driven by the brain-as-computer metaphor doesn’t even closely resemble reality.
When we talk about perception of risk and the challenges of safety, we have to move away from the old paradigms of brain-as-computer and eyes-as-camera and start to understand how humans really make decisions. We cannot let these metaphors rule the way we understand decision making.
So much of what is currently practiced in risk mitigation doesn’t match the research. If we jettison much of the Behaviourist and Positivist stuff that burdens the risk industry we might gain a new way of envisioning risk.
Rob Long says
The crap that floats about like ‘eyes on task’, ‘mind not on task’. ‘line of fire’ and similar behaviourist BS is the snake oil of the century stuff for a moronic industry that thinks incidents can be attributed to such, when indeed it is all meaningless. Once indoctrinated with this behaviourist drivel the sell is that there is some kind of behaviourist remedy for unconscious enactment??? The latest crap is branded ‘neuroscience’ and run by engineers with not a clue in what they are doing. The outcome? Brutalism and non-vision for an industry consumed with its own blindness.
Unfortunately the SciFi genre amplifies this view, since it makes for good fiction and entertainment. How many times would we like to be able to hook up to a machine that can interface with the brain and provide the information we saw but never realised or interpreted? How nice would it be if we could access the brain like a hard drive and recall what we did not even realise was there? It is also ironic how often the video of the gorilla on the basketball court is used to illustrate how we can completely miss something in front of us when we are focused on something else, yet that very same company will crucify you in an incident investigation because you missed something in front of you while focusing on something else. How many times have companies had outcomes of “eyes not on the task” or “risk not recognised”, or my favourite “not being in the moment” while in fact the outcome should have been “focusing on the higher risk caused the (perceived) lower risk to be missed”. Instead of having an outcome of “thank you for concentrating on the right thing”, the outcome is “shame on you for not being able to attend to everything”. (Does the”requirement” for perfection sound familiar to anyone else?)