SPoR Quarterly Newsletter September 2021
Theme – Brain-Centrism and Risk
I was contacted by a safety person the other day who was at his wits end because he had ‘tried everything’ in the so called ‘safety arsenal’ to reduce injury and harm at work. The letter started with comments like ‘we have done safety the same way for many years’ … ‘but it doesn’t work’. The writer was looking for something imaginative perhaps from me but I had to start somewhere and so started with what he already knew about the truck drivers. Unfortunately, not very much.
So, I wrote back to this enquirer and none of the things I thought were important had been enacted. Most of the information and data Safety thinks is important is rarely helpful, because it doesn’t tell you anything about persons or the way humans make decisions (https://vimeo.com/471823469 ).
Most of what Safety thinks is important data is based on the erroneous assumptions of Behaviourism (https://safetyrisk.net/the-curse-of-behaviourism/) and brain-centrism. This is because Safety desires three things:
- Counting injuries as a measure of safety,
- Understanding ‘unsafety’ as failed cognition and,
- Quick and easy ‘fixes’.
These are a distraction from how humans really make decisions. So, no wonder what Safety does, doesn’t work. This is because it’s assumptions are not based on the reality of human anthropology, social reality or learning. When your thinking about humans is determined by Behaviourism and brain-centrism, you will look for outcomes that match your assumptions.
Humans are much more than the sum of behaviours, brain cognition and choice/options. Unless Safety dumps this simplistic stuff, it is never going to have any influence on human judgment and decision making. Here is the problem:
- Humans are not a body with a computer on top.
- Human decision making is not about good or bad programming.
- Things don’t go wrong or right due to good or bad cognition.
Neurophenomenological and ‘enactive’ approaches to human being have a completely opposite view in understanding human judgment and decision making.
Human Socialitie (social being) doesn’t start from isolated individuals acting as computers on top of bodies, neither as computers that construct and represent the world internally in brains, process information and then direct brains to order movement.
Human Socialitie is about Intercorpreality and Interaffectivity (https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/228601612.pdf ) that is, how humans are incorporated into each other and society and, how humans are mutually affected by each other.
These two combined concepts are essential to understanding Socialitie in line with the Annales concept of Mentalitie (mental states that emerge from social context). Socialitie and Mentalitie are about the holistic resonance of all humans with other humans – body, mind and environment. More on this further in this newsletter.
At the heart of the ‘enactive approach’ to humans in Socialitie is an understanding of human emotions as embodied. Emotions consist of circular interactions with others and the world through embodied subjects, not disembodied brains. All social interactions offer affective affordances (how situations ‘design’ outcomes) that is, they invite interactions at all levels just like a chair affords ‘sitting’ or a bucket affords ‘filling’ and ‘carrying’.
Everything in life offers ‘affordances’ by design and context and creates loops as they hard-wired into the human somatic system through experience. This is how live by heuristics (mental short cuts).
For example: we can laugh simply because others are laughing or become depressed because others are depressed. Messaging whether visual, auditory, text or symbolic ‘frames’ all Socialitie and Mentalitie.
Embodied interaffectivity is a process of coordinated interaction between humans through bodily resonance, mutual incorporation and body memory. Together humans in Socialitie build intercorporeal body memory that is acquired from early childhood, well before the development of language. In this way we often talk about a group as if they are a person or we can talk about a mood of a group. We often watch a whole team and club in sport loose a game they should have won, simply because they were not collectively in the right ‘frame’ of Mind. This is why many elite sports people and clubs have sports psychologists on staff.
There are countless experiments that demonstrate the dynamics of interaffectivity and human resonance (Fuchs and Koch, 2014). Indeed, all Socialitie involves humans ‘resonating’ with others through emotions (via mirror neurons) attracted to or away from what is experienced.
Whether we like it or not we are all affected by the presence of others. This is about much more than sharing a common social existence or some sense of mutuality but via body-memory, mirror neurons, a complete interaffectivity with others and the world/environment.
Socialitie extends way beyond just being affected by language and images and makes sense of what Lotman called the ‘Semiosphere’. That is, human Socialitie is embedded in the world of symbolic/ mythical living and cannot be separated from it. There is extensive evidence for the reality of Interaffectivity.
Simple actions like ritual cleansing can help manage guilt (Meier et.al., 2012), holding a pen between the teeth and taking it away can affect the way we respond to humour (Strack et.al., 1988), standing or sitting in power positions can assist confidence (Cuddy et. al., 2012) and that experiencing warmth or cold can affect the way we respond to people positively or negatively (Bargh and Williams, 2009). These and many more experiments discussed by Fuchs and Koch (2014) show that our Socialitie shapes interaffectivity and resonance. As Claxton (2015) famously stated:
‘Our brain doesn’t issue commands, it hosts conversations’
The term Intercorporeality simultaneously foregrounds the social nature of the body and the bodily nature of social relationships. This should be the focus of how risk and safety address the daily challenges of tackling risk.
Our existence is in relation to others – our Intersubjectivity – is something tangible and bodily. In terms of the Social Psychology of Risk (SPoR) this is understood as the ‘dialectic’ between humans and other humans embodied in the environment. This is the meaning of Buber’s i-thou. Similarly, Robinson argued that human learning is about Minds not brains (Robinson, K., 2001). The use of the idea of ‘Mind’ goes well beyond the idea of a brain making decisions and is more about whole being. In SPoR we talk about ‘One Brain and Three Minds’, three centres of being: Head, Heart and Gut.
The idea of Intercorporeality comes from Merleau-Ponty (Phenomenology of Preception, 2005) referring to the pre-reflective intertwining of lived and living bodies, in which my own body is affected by yours as ‘embodied communication’. Intercorporeality is the opposite to the theory of humans-as-brains that represent the world in heads on top of bodies through the sum of ‘neural processes’. The computing metaphor of ‘programming’ is a complete misrepresentation of how humans live in the world. The risk and safety industry will never tackle the realities of risk as long as this worldview is maintained.
In Intercorporeality there is no ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ to human being. Inside and outside are not separate domains but only directions of motion (dialectic) between e-motion and affection.
Whether we like it or not we are all affected by each other and the enactment of others penetrates our being.
From early childhood the presence of others is infused in implicit knowledge as body memory in what can be called ‘intercorporeal memory’. Humans are situated in cultures, environments and a Semiosphere that affects all decision making. I discussed many of the matters raised in this article in my book Envisioning Risk (Long, 2020).
A better metaphor for understanding this habitus is breathing. We not only share the same air as others, we also breathe it onto others and they inhale it, it is the shared life. Now, because of COVID we understand this shared sense of being acutely. If that air carries an infection, that person receives that infection and so we becomes sick. This also happens emotionally and psychologically, except there is no mask that can insulate us fully from the emotions and psychology of others. We also know that social distancing creates mental health issues, again evidence of interaffectivity and intercorporeality.
Intercorporeality and Interaffectivity are best understood through enaction, action and the metaphor of ‘the dance’. The metaphor and action of dance is critical for understanding SPoR and e-motion. Humans move through the world mostly by heuristics, habits and e-motion than by brain centric directed rationalism. e-motion is rarely about rational decision making.
What does this mean for risk and safety?
Let’s return to my discussion with my enquirer into truck driving and incidents.
I suggested to my enquirer a range of things he could focus on to build a different understanding of how truck drivers make decisions. Most of the data he had been told to collect by Safety was completely irrelevant and unhelpful. The beginning of helping others is understanding, listening and building a Socialitie profile.
So, I suggested twenty or more critical factors that influence decision making and he had not considered any of them. Some of these critical issues are represented on the Map of Social Influencing Strategies (See Figure 1. Social Influencing Strategies) but there are many factors that need to be considered, it’s a wicked problem (Conklin, J., 2005)
You can download this poster here: https://spor.com.au/downloads/posters/ but it won’t be of much value without introductory education in SPoR. Unfortunately, all places for free education in SPoR are over-subscribed until 2022. (https://cllr.com.au/product/an-introduction-to-the-social-psychology-of-risk-unit-1-free-online-module/).
The following references are a place to start if you want to re-envision a different way in understanding risk.
Bordieu, P., (1991) Symbolic Power. Basil Blackwell, London.
Buber, M., (1937) i-thou. T & T Clark, Edinburgh.
Claxton, G., (2015) Intelligence in the Flesh. Yale University Press. London.
Conklin, J., Dialogue Mapping: Building Shared Understanding of Wicked Problems. Wiley, New York.
Fuchs, T,. and Koch,S., ‘Embodied affectivity: On moving and being moved’
Frontiers in Psychology 5 (Front. Psychol. 5:508, June 2014)
Fuchs, T., 2016.
‘Intercorporeality and Interaffectivity’
Phenomenology and Mind, n. 11 – 2016, pp. 194-209
Lotman, Y., (2000) Universe of the Mind, A Semiotic Theory of Culture. Indiana University Press. Bloomington.
Meier, P., Schnall, S., Schwarz, N., and Bargh, J.,
‘Embodiment in Social Psychology’
ToPICS, Volume 4, Issue 4 October 2012 (Pages 705-716)
Long, R., (2020) Envisioning Risk, Seeing, Vision and Meaning in Risk. Scotoma Press. Canberra.
Merleau-Ponty, M., (2005) Phenomenology of Perception. Routledge, London.
Robinson, K., (2001) Out of Our Minds, Learning to be Creative. Capstone. London.
Strack, M., Martin, L., Stepper, S.,
Inhibiting and facilitating conditions of the human smile: A nonobtrusive test of the facial feedback hypothesis.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(5), 768–777
3 Small Chat Rooms on Risk and Safety
Three Masters in SPoR are Matt Thorne, Dave Whitefield and Andrew Thornhill have recently commenced publishing videos on key topics of interest to those in risk and safety. Matt, Dave and Andrew are highly skilled, experienced and wll researched in SPoR.
You can see their first two videos here: https://vimeo.com/user51855518 and they assure me there are many more to come.
Make sure you subscribe to keep up with this video series as they explain their perspective on applying SPoR to work.
Each one of these people have extraordinary experience and expertise in the risk and safety industry. Matt is located in Adelaide, Dave in Brisbane and Andrew in Melbourne. I’m sure they would be happy to receive an email from you if you are in their city and would love to chat about what they do and about SPoR.
- Andrew has two businesses called Clarity and IRM Systems: Andrew@irmsystems.com.au
- Dave has a business called Semiosphere Australia: https://www.semiosphere.com.au/ email@example.com
- Matt has a business called Risk Diversity: https://www.riskdiversity.com.au/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep your eye out for these three and other SPoR associates. They offer a fresh and creative alternative to lots of the traditional safety stuff about that lacks vision and practicality.
Maternal Voice Reduces Pain in Premature Babies
Neuroscience News (August 27, 2021)
When a mother speaks to her newborn during a medical intervention, the baby’s oxytocin levels increase and their expression of pain decreases.
A team from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), in collaboration with the Parini Hospital in Italy and the University of Valle d’Aosta, observed that when the mother spoke to her baby at the time of the medical intervention, the signs of the baby’s expression of pain decreased and his oxytocin level – the hormone involved in attachment and also linked to stress – increased significantly, which could attest to better pain management. Similarly, we know that other factors such as music, calming sound and mothers body affect child development.
In other experiments, we know that even a mother’s symbolic facial expressions, stance and emotion have enormous affect on the child. Just have a look at this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apzXGEbZht0) of the ‘still face experiment’ by Dr Edward Tronick to understand the embodied interaffectivity between mother and child (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOR7jId8wYk). In less than a few minutes the experiment has to be stopped because of the child’s distress. Such is the power of how persons affect each other emotionally.
The way we inter-affect each other is NOT about some cognitive, language or behaviorist force but rather how embodied interaffectivity and mirror neurons play a profound part in why we respond intercorporeally with each other (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WN8RG1AHTA) .
It is amazing how holding, cuddling, stroking, soothing humming, rocking and nurturing another in embodied enactment can rapidly change the emotions. Similarly, when we as adults are distressed, simply the presence of another, holding a hand, a song or offering a prayer can soothe and change fear, anxiety and distress into calm.
In many of these experiments (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChoOExRLT4Q) we see that human enactment is not about brain-centrism but rather being as embodied.
In the case of children’s pain, we know that separation from the mother and father increases the pain in the child regardless of what medications are required for the child’s health. Morso, when the child is placed in or on a machine. The evidence shows that such separation that focuses on just medical needs, inhibits develovement.
If we have learned anything from COVID19 and lockdowns it is the profound social needs we have for mental health. We also know that trauma is embodied and that mental illness leads to physical illness. Read Van der Kolk The Body Keeps the Score (https://www.getstoryshots.com/books/the-body-keeps-the-score-summary/).
Free Book Downloads
Since last newsletter (https://spor.com.au/downloads/newsletter-archive/#2021) we have announced 2 new free downloads of books, these are:
Sams, R., (2016) Social Sensemaking, A Reflective Journal; How We Make Sense of Risk. PowWow Publishers. Newcastle.
Long, R., (2019) The Social Psychology of Risk Handbook, i-thou. Scotoma Press. Canberra.
In all there are eight books on offer for free download: https://www.humandymensions.com/shop/
Since 2016 there have been nearly 200,000 downloads of books in SPoR. We will be celebrating that milestone soon.
Dr Long recently celebrated 1000 blogs on SafetyRisk (https://safetyrisk.net/celebrating-1000-blogs-on-risk/). This marks a significant milestone in proposing an alternative approach in risk and safety.
It was great to receive such wonderful support from far and wide from people stating how much Dr Long’s blogs, ideas, models and thinking have meant to them.
In order to celebrate this milestone Dr Long released his popular SPoR Handbook for free download: https://www.humandymensions.com/product/the-social-psychology-of-risk-handbook/
A special thanks goes to Dave Collins the founder of the blog and for his courage and resilience in owning and managing this huge task.
With over 22 million visits to Dave’s blog it is one of the most popular sites in Risk and Safety globally, especially for those who want read about a different vision for humanising risk. Thanks Dave, this industry owes you so much.
Registration of Interest for Proposed Free Study Module
Dr Long has been delivering free modules regularly over the past 2 years. He delivers the Introductory Online module every three months (https://cllr.com.au/product/an-introduction-to-the-social-psychology-of-risk-unit-1-free-online-module/).
Dr Long also delivers another free module every three months and this was recently the Ethics module. These free modules are only available for people already educated in SPoR. These modules would normally cost $4000 each at any University.
What we want to know is, what module from the 22 listed (https://cllr.com.au/elearning/) in the Prospectus would you be most interested in studying? This will determine the module Dr Long puts up on free offer in October 2021.
Please register you interest in a module by writing to Dr Long here: email@example.com he will then look at the demand from feedback and soon in September communicate with those interested.
New Education Package iCue Engagement Resources
All of those who have completed learning in SPoR will know about Workspace, Headspace and Groupspace (WS, HS, GS) and One Brain and Three Minds (1B3M). These two concepts form the foundation for iCue Engagement processes in managing risk that are so well documented in the Mondi case study: It Works, A New Approach to Risk and Safety (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/it-works-a-new-approach-to-risk-and-safety/).
Now we are proud to announce practical support for those seeking to enact iCue Engagement in their workplace. The release of the iCue Engagement Manual helps anyone who has done the training to enact iCue Listening, iCue Questioning and a range of iCue strategies in tackling risk.
Purchase of the iCue Engagement Manual entitles one to:
- The manual formatted in A4 for reproduction, coaching and training in workplaces supervised by a SPoR certified trainer.
- Access to 5 professionally made videos that support the manual. These videos by Dr Long and Dr Ashhurst help lead you through the iCue Engagement process and can be downloaded for repeat coaching. The link and password are provided upon purchase of the manual.
- A set of Whiteboard magnets of the WS, HS, GS and 1B3M icons.
In addition, access to the advanced icons are also available for purchase (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/icue-listening-magnet-set/).
Soon we will also make available for purchase the iCue Engagement Scenario Pack and iCue Dialogue Pack that complement the magnets and manual in teaching people how to enact iCue Engagement in the workplace. We are hoping the card packs will be available for purchase by October 2021. Then we will sell the total education bundle for a reduced rate.
You can see an example of an iCue Engagement process here: https://vimeo.com/456036529
If you want to learn how to do iCue Engagement the next free workshop is in 2022 and you can register here: https://cllr.com.au/product/an-introduction-to-the-social-psychology-of-risk-unit-1-free-online-module/
iCue stands for ‘Intelligent Cue’ and conveys the idea that once trained, one envisions risk differently and sees and hears cues about risk that are lost in orthodox/traditional approaches to risk and safety.
Panpsychism and Interaffectivity in Risk
Panpsychism is the ancient belief that all consciousness is universal and in everything. The idea is that all things share a common life force whether a rock, animal or person. I have written before about Australian Indigenous and American Indigenous belief (SPoR Handbook pp. 77ff, Envisioning Risk pp. 9ff, pp. 96ff, pp.168ff) and how First People’s symbology understands all things as sacred. It doesn’t matter whether it is a place or a thing, Indigenous Australians believe that there is ‘life force’ present. This results in enormous respect for land, the environment and Communitie compared to the short history of Western exploitation, abuse of land/country and the destruction of consumerism, power, profit and utility.
However, Panpsychism isn’t just limited to ancient cultures it is also part of the Buddhist sense of Mind. The concept of Mind in western thought has been limited and interpreted as ‘brain’ but this is not close to the Buddhist sense of Mindfulness. In Buddhist thinking we are part of everything and connected to everything and everything is in us. When we harm the environment or exploit it, we harm ourselves.
Panpsychism is one of the oldest of all philosophical doctrines extant and was put forth by the ancient Greeks, in particular Thales of Miletus and Plato. Philosopher Baruch Spinoza and mathematician and universal genius Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who laid down the intellectual foundations for the Age of Enlightenment, argued for Panpsychism, as did philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, father of American psychology William James, and Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin. It declined in popularity with the rise of Positivism and Scientism in the 20th century.
Panpsychism suggests that everything is ‘en-Minded’.
In this regard Panpsychism shares commonalities with the idea that consciousness is both material and embodied, beyond just the idea of brain-centrism to Mind–centrism or life force centrism.
You can read about Panpsychism here:
If there is even an element of truth to this theory, is poses much greater challenges for the ways things interact in our world. It seems the ideas of Positivism and Scientism haven’t taken us very far when it comes to understanding consciousness and unconsciousness. It has been these theories that suppose that ancient cultures are ‘primitive’ and that in materialism and consumerism is the meaning in what is. Interestingly, many of the most popular movies and TV series project a much broader sense of Mind than the emptiness offered by Positivism.
If Mind is much more than brain-centrism perhaps those in risk and safety ought to pay more attention to environment, conditions, culture, the collective unconscious and shared Mind than the idea that events unfold simply because of human brain-centric cognition.
With 8 books now offered for free download we have decided to offer a new reward for our perception competition held each newsletter.
So, this time the winner of the competition will receive a free magnet set of WS, HS, GS and 1B3Ms, on the condition that they have trained in SPoR and understand their use.
If you are eligible for the magnet set, please send in your entry to firstname.lastname@example.org with you postal address.
The first 5 correct entries will be posted a magnet set.
Research on Mind and Consciousness
The Law and Due Diligence